The announcement spells further bad news for the city’s tourism and hospitality industries.
Any plans for leisure travel to Hong Kong may have to wait until next year at the very earliest, as local authorities have extended the 14-day quarantine requirement for all overseas arrivals from September 18 to December 31, 2020. A government statement justified the decision based on the broader global situation and a surge in locally transmitted Covid-19 cases. It went on to warn that “the risk of a large-scale community outbreak is now the highest since the emergence of the epidemic in Hong Kong.”
More than 1,000 new infections have been recorded in Hong Kong this month, with today’s count of 145 new cases representing a record high and the sixth consecutive day of a triple-digit increase. Authorities have responded by progressively tightening social-distancing measures in the territory. At a press conference this afternoon, chief secretary Matthew Cheung announced a complete ban on dine-in services at restaurants, a first for Hong Kong; the expansion of a face-mask rule to cover outdoor areas; and a limit of just two people at public gatherings. These regulations will come into force on Wednesday (July 29) and last at least one week.
Also taking effect this Wednesday are several new restrictions on travelers from certain countries, as well as rules aimed at limiting the movements of air crews and seamen. Passengers flying from the United States and Kazakhstan must show they are free of Covid-19 through a nucleic acid test before boarding, and provide confirmation of a hotel booking of at least 14 days. This already applies to those coming from seven other “high-risk” nations, including India, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
To prevent them from mixing with the community, sailors will only be allowed to travel directly between their ships and the airport on transport arranged by their employers. Incoming air crews must show proof that they have tested negative for the virus within 48 hours of their flight, or face mandatory testing on arrival and a long wait for their results at designated venues where they must self-isolate. Commercial pilots and flight attendants have been subject to mandatory testing on arrival since July 8—prompting American Airlines and United to suspend flights to Hong Kong—but have been able to move around freely before the release of their results.