Hong Kong announced it is dropping hotel quarantine rules for entry into the city after more than two years of strict pandemic controls in a move that was lauded by the aviation sector.
The Hong Kong government made the announcement Friday, September 23 with the city's Chief Executive John Lee saying that Hong Kong's Covid-19 infections have stabilized, allowing authorities to further ease pandemic-related restrictions.
"0+3" quarantine arrangement
The new rules that will take effect from September 26 will no longer require inbound travellers to undergo hotel quarantine and instead will be subjected to three days of medical surveillance either at home or at a hotel.
"From 6am on September 26, such arrivals will be allowed to go home or go to the hotel of their choice for a three-day medical surveillance period right after they have completed a nucleic acid test at the airport. They do not need to wait for the test result at the airport and can leave there by any transport means," the announcement said.
The travellers will, however, be required to take rapid antigen tests (RATs) daily and nucleic acid tests once every two days in the first seven days upon arrival in Hong Kong.
"After completing the medical surveillance period, the travellers will be subject to self-monitoring in the subsequent four days," the announcement further said.
The new "0+3" quarantine arrangement came as inbound travellers from overseas places or Taiwan were required to undergo quarantine at a designated quarantine hotel for three days, followed by a four-day medical surveillance period at home or in a non-quarantine hotel.
"By introducing this new measure of "0+3" quarantine arrangement for arrivals from overseas and Taiwan, obviously this is a kind of relaxation from the "3+4" model," Lee said in a press briefing.
"So we want to ensure that we will monitor the situation closely so that all the risks are well controlled and things can progress in an orderly manner," he added.
The move is also meant to reconnect Hong Kong to the rest of the world and revitalize its economy as concerns grew that the city is being left behind as the rest of the world moved on from the pandemic.
While still taking into consideration the prevailing local Covid-19 situation in the financial hub, Lee said there's also a need to raise Hong Kong's competitiveness.
"All the measures that we consider and roll out take into consideration the prevailing local Covid-19 situation. We have to ensure that, first of all, our hospital services can cope ... We have to ensure that we reduce the number of serious cases and death cases and we want to do it scientifically," the chief executive said.
"And then, of course, we want to balance the need for controlling the epidemic with society's needs, economic needs, and also the need to raise Hong Kong's competitiveness," he added.
The easing of this major Covid-restriction came as authorities have been under pressure from various sectors to lift one of the world's toughest pandemic-control measures.
Hong Kong aviation welcomes move
The Hong Kong aviation sector — which has been largely hit by the stringent pandemic restrictions in the city — welcomed the announcement, saying that this will help the industry bounce back faster.
"Airport Authority Hong Kong welcomes the Government's adjustment of quarantine arrangement for inbound passengers," the airport authority overseeing the Hong Kong International Airport said.
"AAHK looks forward to the continued recovery of air traffic. We are working closely with the airport community to prepare for the expected increase of flights and passengers," it added.
For its part, Cathay Pacific also lauded the easing of the quarantine restrictions.
"Cathay Pacific welcomes the Hong Kong SAR Government's latest measures to facilitate travel to Hong Kong, especially the decision to remove the hotel quarantine arrangement for passengers arriving in Hong Kong effective 26 September 2022," the city's flag carrier said.
"These adjustments will help boost sentiment for travel, thereby facilitating the gradual resumption of travel activities and strengthening of network connectivity to, from and through the Hong Kong aviation hub," it added.
Cathay said it will also add more flights to and from Hong Kong to further rebuild the connectivity of the Hong Kong aviation hub.