The updated regulations include stricter testing requirements and make it even more difficult for airlines to avoid temporary flight bans.
One of the few remaining places still pursuing a Covid-elimination strategy, Hong Kong has just rolled out even tougher border measures in a bid to keep out the new Omicron variant. The United Kingdom is now reclassified as a Group A country “with enhanced quarantine and surveillance measures,” joining 12 nations in Africa alongside the United States, where Omicron has superseded Delta to become the dominant strain.
Health authorities have also outlined significant changes for travelers returning from these highest-risk countries. To board their flights, Hong Kong residents coming back from any of the aforementioned places must show a recognized vaccination record, a negative Covid-19 test result, and proof of a 17-night booking at a designated quarantine hotel from Day 5 after their arrival. (The first four days of self-isolation will be spent at the Penny’s Bay Quarantine Facility on Lantau Island.) Apart from undergoing pre-flight and on-arrival PCR tests, they should expect 13 rounds of testing while in quarantine, followed by a final swab on Day 26.
And starting from December 24, the lead time for PCR tests required of all Hong Kong–bound travelers will be shortened from 72 to 48 hours before departure. The territory’s government has tightened its flight suspension mechanism in a move that will deal a further blow to the local aviation industry. If four passengers test positive for Covid-19 on arrival within a seven-day period on a specific route, this will trigger an immediate 14-day ban for all flights on that route, irrespective of the airline. The rule is retroactive; Qatar Airways has been penalized for bringing in five Covid cases between December 14 and 20, and is now banned from operating passenger flights from Doha to Hong Kong from tomorrow (December 22) until January 4, 2022.
This comes in addition to existing regulations allowing Hong Kong’s government to suspend inbound flights from a specific carrier if three or more passengers on a single flight are found to be infected through on-arrival tests, or if at least one person tests positive and one or more travelers on the same plane “fail to comply” with requirements set out by local authorities.
As of December 21, 2021, the highest-risk countries are as follows:
|North America||United States|
Travelers returning from these places must undergo 21 days of hotel quarantine:
|Ukraine (from midnight on Dec. 22)|
|Middle East and North Africa||Algeria|
|Palestine (from midnight on Dec. 22)|
|United Arab Emirates|
|Sub-Saharan Africa||Democratic Republic of Congo|
|Peru (from midnight on Dec. 23)|
|Trinidad and Tobago|