Hong Kong backtracks on short quarantine

HONG KONG, 20 August 2020: It’s less than two months since Hong Kong reduced its quarantine rule from 21 to seven days, and the latest retreat to a stricter 21-day regime is unnerving the territory’s hospitality and travel sector.

Bloomberg reported that within “30 minutes of Hong Kong reversing its seven-day quarantine policy, the Ovolo Hotels’ switchboard was swamped with calls. The operator of two facilities in the city’s mandatory quarantine programme also got more than 850 emails, as frantic travellers sought to adjust their bookings.”

Hong Kong has also scrapped rules that allowed fully vaccinated residents returning from medium-risk locations to quarantine in a hotel for just one week. The Medium Risk Group B list comprises all countries except China that are not specified in Group A or Group C plus Australia, effective 20 August.

The official government announcement said the compulsory quarantine period in designated quarantine hotels for inbound travellers who had stayed in medium-risk places could at “most be shortened to 14 days if they hold a recognised vaccination record.”

They will also be under a seven-day self-monitoring and observation period once the quarantine ends.

Mandatory quarantine for fully vaccinated visitors from low-risk places remains at seven days, but it is 14 days for those who are not inoculated. Only one country, New Zealand, remains on the Low-Risk Group C list.

Counties that are back in the high-risk category require a longer quarantine stay of 21 days, during which they will undergo six tests for Covid-19. They will also have to be tested again at a community testing centre on the 26th day after their arrival.

High-risk Group A

Bangladesh, Cambodia, France, Greece, Iran, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States

Only Hong Kong residents who are fully vaccinated and hold a recognised vaccination record can board flights for Hong Kong from high-risk countries. Besides presenting a negative test result for Covid-19 before boarding their flight, they also have to be in quarantine for 21 days and self-monitor for another seven.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, in a statement late on Tuesday, said the decision was made after the chief executive’s expert advisory panel, and the two scientific committees under the Centre for Health Protection suggested that inbound travellers should be quarantined for two weeks even if they are fully vaccinated and tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.

“Under the updated recommendations, experts considered that the compulsory quarantine period could only be shortened to 14 days at most,” a government spokesman was quoted as saying in the statement.

The new restrictions come into effect noon Friday.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong reported three new imported Covid-19 cases earlier this week, taking the total to 12,036.

Health authorities reported that 6,821,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered, with about 3,829,800 people receiving their first dose and around 2,991,600 getting their second dose.

(Source: Bloomberg, HK Gov website)