Hong Kong cuts hotel quarantine in latest move to improve travel

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – Hong Kong will reduce the period of time arrivals must spend in hotel quarantine to three days, plus four days of health monitoring, the latest move to ease travel restrictions that have largely isolated the Asian financial hub throughout the pandemic.

People arriving in Hong Kong will need to spend three days in hotel quarantine and can then serve their four days of health monitoring, which will coincide with movement restrictions, at home or in a hotel, Chief Executive John Lee said on Monday (Aug 8). The new rules come into effect on Friday.

The four days of health monitoring carry relatively loose rules, with travellers only unable to visit high-risk places. They can still leave their homes.

The easier-to-endure quarantine period follows the removal of flight suspensions on July 7 that imposed snap bans on certain routes if they inadvertently brought in passengers infected with Covid-19, making it difficult for travellers to plan their trips.

The easing measures implemented during Lee’s early days in office are part of his plan to restore the city’s stature without alienating Chinese officials committed to rooting out the virus.

Anticipation had been building for weeks that the new administration would cut the seven-day hotel quarantine that international travellers face when entering the city.

While Lee said in late June he aimed to reduce the duration of quarantine to five days, there has been little progress until now.

A planned press conference on the issue on Friday was cancelled due to unresolved technical problems, the South China Morning Post reported.

The city’s strict rules – at a time when much of the rest of the world has abandoned Covid-19 curbs – have deterred travelers and undermined Hong Kong’s future as an international finance centre.

The slow pace of reducing quarantine also shows the city’s struggle to balance limiting new Covid-19 cases and opening up its international borders.

Reduced quarantine may not ease headaches for travel into Hong Kong. Rooms are in short supply, costs are high, while anyone who is infected in the days before their trip are forced to delay travel.

Once inside the city, public gatherings of more than four people are still banned – though indoor events can be larger – and masks are mandatory.

Officials also unveiled a tiered health-code system reminiscent of what is used in mainland China.