Hong Kong Finally Drops Mandatory Quarantine

Instead, arrivals will undergo three days of self-monitoring and do multiple RAT and PCR tests for a week.

Sunset over Victoria Harbour and the skyscrapers of Hong Kong. (Photo: Manson Yim/Unsplash)

In a much-awaited Friday afternoon press conference, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee announced that the city will end quarantine and reopen to the world from Monday, September 26. The leader said his administration would be moving to an “0+3” model to protect against new coronavirus variants. According to former journalist Aaron Busch, whose Twitter account is the key English-language resource for up-to-the-minute information on local Covid news, this ends 922 days of quarantine rules on overseas arrivals; the entry restrictions were first imposed on March 19, 2020.

Vaccination will be a prerequisite for non-residents, and travelers who received their shots abroad can declare their inoculation records via this link to obtain a local Vaccine Pass. They will also need to download the LeaveHomeSafe contact tracing app. Pre-departure testing requirements are changing from a PCR test to an RAT within 24 hours of the scheduled flight time, and an online health declaration form must be filled out before boarding with the RAT result included. Following a PCR test on arrival, no waiting will be necessary; travelers will be able to go straight to their residence or chosen hotel on any form of public transport.

During the first three days, arrivals will have an amber health code, which bans them from restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms, and other high-risk settings for mask-off activities. Daily rapid antigen tests are necessary for a week, along with PCR tests on days two, four, and six at community testing centers. Getting a negative result from the second-day PCR test will change one’s Vaccine Pass status from amber to blue on the third day, promising more freedom of movement.

Though this represents a major shift away from the city’s “dynamic zero-Covid” policy, the new regulations are still a hurdle for the return of mass tourism, as visitors will be put off by the risk of testing positive on arrival and their inability to dine out and drink at bars over the first three days. But local residents and Hong Kongers living overseas have greeted the news with jubilation. Following the announcement, Cathay Pacific’s website experienced a massive surge in online traffic, while British Airways said it would resume flights to Hong Kong on December 5.

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