The length of time spent in self-isolation will now depend on both travel history and vaccination status.
While regional rival Singapore has outlined a roadmap to reopen and “live with Covid” once vaccination levels reach 80 percent, Hong Kong remains committed to its goal of reaching (and maintaining) zero cases. At a press conference this afternoon, the territory’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced tougher quarantine measures and an overhaul of the current risk-based assessment system for arrivals. Countries and regions will be grouped into three categories — high-risk, medium-risk, and low-risk — instead of the current five. All travelers coming into Hong Kong must carry proof of a negative result for the virus through a PCR test done within 72 hours of the flight.
Only vaccinated Hong Kong residents will be able to enter from high-risk places, and ongoing blanket bans on passenger flights from countries such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom are likely to continue. Returnees with a travel history to high-risk regions must spend 21 days in hotel quarantine and take up to seven Covid-19 tests in the 19 days following their arrival.
Non-residents from places deemed “medium-risk” can travel to Hong Kong if they have been inoculated against the virus (the unvaccinated will be denied entry), with their quarantine period halved from 14 to seven days if they are willing to take an on-arrival antibody test, which will be rolled out at the airport this month. Unvaccinated Hong Kong residents returning from medium-risk countries will be required to isolate at a designated hotel for 21 days.
Vaccinated arrivals from low-risk areas will undergo seven days of self-isolation, but unvaccinated travelers will have to serve 14 days in quarantine. Hong Kong has yet to launch any travel bubbles with other places in the Asia-Pacific region, and discussions over the long-delayed arrangement with Singapore have been postponed until late August.
Despite Lam declaring Hong Kong’s fourth wave over, with no local cases recorded during the last 56 days, health chief Sophia Chan said current social distancing measures would remain in place for another two weeks. Testing requirements are being tightened too; unvaccinated staff in dining venues will have to be swabbed every seven days, compared to the previous requirement of 14 days. Meanwhile, doctors, nurses, aged home workers, and teachers who have not received the jabs must be tested every two weeks. Chan added that she was confident the territory’s overall vaccination rate would reach 70 percent by late September.