Hong Kong Scraps Vaccine Mandate for Travelers

But those coming in from places outside mainland China and Macau will still need to self-test beforehand.

Photo: Jason Lam/Unsplash

A day after launching the Hello Hong Kong campaign to woo visitors with a giveaway of 500,000 free air tickets, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee has announced a further rollback of entry restrictions. Come Monday, February 6, the city will be fully reopening its border with mainland China, ending daily quotas and a PCR testing requirement for all travelers from the mainland. Similarly, rapid antigen tests will no longer necessary for people entering from Macau, allowing Hongkongers to embark on a fuss-free day trip or overnight stay in the nearby gambling hub. Notably, Hong Kong is abolishing the vaccine requirement for overseas arrivals, though a pre-departure RAT remains mandatory.

All border checkpoints with Shenzhen are set to reopen next week. Travelers who have been overseas within seven days of entering the mainland from Hong Kong must be cleared through a PCR test, taken no more than 48 hours before crossing the border. At the same press conference, the city’s health chief Lo Chung-mau said the measures were justified as the daily tally of coronavirus cases dropped from 14,000 to 3,000 over the month of January, with infections traced to the mainland only accounting for 16 percent of the total. Lee added that keeping pre-departure tests in place for international arrivals was so the government could monitor and control the risk from overseas.

Hong Kong authorities plan to hand out 500,000 air tickets over a six-month period; participating carriers include Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Express, and Hong Kong Airlines. In March, free seats will be offered to Southeast Asian visitors from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. April will see the start of the second phase targeting mainland China ⁠— by far the biggest market for tourists to Hong Kong before the pandemic ⁠— while the giveaway will be expanded to Japan, South Korea, and other countries in May.

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