Hong Kong Cuts Hotel Quarantine to 3 Days as City’s Image Slumps!
Hong Kong will reduce hotel quarantine from seven days to three days as businesses and residents in the international financial hub grow increasingly frustrated with one of the world’s most draconian border regimes.
Under the new rules, travellers will only have to stay in a hotel for three days instead of seven. After that, they will be under “home medical surveillance” for four days.
During the surveillance period, arrivals will not be allowed to enter venues such as bars and restaurants that have been required to adopt a new two-color health code similar to that used in mainland China. The eased measures will take effect from Friday.
Since he took office last month, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee has said that re-connecting the city to mainland China and the rest of the world is one of his top priorities. He also said that the government wanted to lessen the effects of the quarantine on the economy and travel.
“We need to balance between people’s livelihood and the competitiveness of Hong Kong to give the community maximum momentum and economic vitality,” Lee said at a press conference on Monday.
Hong Kong was called “Asia’s World City” for a long time, but after two and a half years of strict border controls meant to make it more like mainland China, it has become one of the most isolated cities in the world.
The pandemic policies, along with a sweeping crackdown on dissent that has severely curtailed rights and freedoms in the former British colony, have prompted an exodus of residents and warnings of brain drain in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
In 2020 and 2021, more than 120,000 people left, and this year, tens of thousands more are expected to follow.
In a survey done by the American Chamber of Commerce of Hong Kong last year, more than 40% of expatriate residents said they were planning to leave or thinking about it.
Despite the rest of the world transitioning to living with the virus, the Hong Kong government has not laid out any timetable for permanently exiting border controls.
Travel to the city continues to be difficult and costly even after the latest easing of restrictions, as travellers have to fight for space at a limited number of quarantine hotels and face the risk of being stranded if they test positive for COVID-19 before their flight.
Gary Ng, a senior economist at Natixis in Hong Kong, said that while positive, the relaxation of quarantine still left the city trailing the rest of the world.
“The best-case scenario is that Hong Kong’s air passengers can reach 8% of their pre-pandemic level in 2022, but that’s not enough,” Ng told Al Jazeera.
“Hong Kong’s leaders need to get past COVID for the good of the economy as a whole. Adding more obstacles, like the health code, doesn’t help.”