Hong Kong Reopens Beaches, Cuts Quarantines

Travelers coming from low-risk countries will see their mandatory quarantine period reduced by a week.

Surfers at Big Wave Bay Beach on Hong Kong Island. (Photo: Emily Liang/Unsplash)

As the number of locally transmitted cases in Hong Kong has dwindled in recent days, signaling the likely end of its fourth wave of coronavirus infections, authorities are now relaxing restrictions for some international arrivals. Travelers returning from low-risk countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore will spend 14 days in hotel quarantine, down from the 21 days currently mandated for arrivals from all areas outside Mainland China, Macau, and Taiwan. Instead of spending a third week inside a hotel, they can undergo self-monitoring at home. Those coming from medium-risk countries who have been inoculated against Covid-19 will also be eligible for a reduced quarantine period.

Hong Kong residents traveling back from nations classed as high-risk — including Brazil, Ireland, South Africa, and the United Kingdom — must spend the full 21 days of self-isolation in a designated hotel. Health authorities have said that the months-long travel ban on all arrivals from the United Kingdom will soon be lifted, in light of Britain’s falling infection rates and the progress of its vaccine rollout. Officials are also currently in talks with 16 countries to create reciprocal quarantine-free arrangements for vaccinated travelers.

Several social distancing rules are also being relaxed just before the Easter holiday. A government press release published in the early hours of this morning confirmed that capacity limits on religious gatherings would be raised to 30 percent with immediate effect; congregational services are exempt from the ongoing ban on public gatherings of more than four people.

Starting tomorrow, beaches, swimming pools, and playgrounds will be reopened to the public. The number of swimmers permitted at any one time will be capped at 30 percent of each pool’s designed capacity; leisure pools, children’s pools, and Jacuzzis must remain closed.

Local authorities are easing capacity restrictions at cinemas, live performance venues, and theme parks as well. The number of seats that can be filled in movie theaters and concert halls will increase from 50 to 75 percent; the same rule applies for spectator stands at sports venues, while the permitted number of visitors at theme parks will reach three-quarters of their pre-pandemic capacity.

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