There have been cracks on Hong Kong’s previously unified quarantine front over the past couple of days.
Hong Kong’s secretary of health said on Saturday that the government is actively considering scrapping the hotel quarantine. On Sunday, the government’s pandemic adviser suggested that they should end the pre-departure PCR-RT tests as well as the hotel quarantine.
Hong Kong SAR has been closed to quarantine-free arrivals since March 2020 and first required hotel quarantines from 14 to 21 days, which was later lowered to 7 days and most recently in August to 3 days, followed by 4 days of self-monitoring.
There are several significant events scheduled in Hong Kong for November that will likely not go fully forward unless the quarantine is scrapped; a global banking summit and rugby games.
An excerpt from the SCMP
Hong Kong’s health chief has said the government is “actively considering” scrapping hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals, sounding a cautiously optimistic note on stabilising daily Covid-19 caseloads.
Calls to ease the current arrangement further to a “0+7” scheme, scrapping hotel quarantine, have been gaining steam, with rival cities such as Singapore already ditching quarantine measures for travellers.
“Is it going to be ‘0+7’? The government is actively considering,” Lo said on Saturday. “Our direction is definitely to connect with the world.”
Another SCMP excerpt:
Government pandemic adviser Professor David Hui Shu-cheong on Sunday also suggested authorities should consider scrapping a requirement for inbound travellers to obtain a negative result from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test 48 hours before boarding as they had to undergo screening again upon arrival anyway.
“If the Covid-19 figures in the coming one to two weeks continue to decrease and our medical sector can bear with it, I believe the government should actively consider loosening [quarantine measures],” Hui told a TV programme, adding it was better to lift restrictions earlier rather than later.
Hong Kong’s closure for quarantine-free arrivals has been an utter disaster for previously global Cathay Pacific, which August traffic figures were down 91.3% compared to 2019.
Hong Kong’s previous goal was covid zero, so it could fully reopen its border with the mainland. It won’t happen before China accepts the reality that covid is here to stay.
These voices in the past few days are the first indication that there will likely be a change in quarantine requirements. The events scheduled to take place in November are likely a factor too.
It is unclear if these changes would affect the current system that doesn’t allow those who enter entirely free to roam until they have been in the city for 7 days with daily tests (PCR-RT and antigen).