Hong Kong is to do away with hotel quarantine for inbound travellers from 26 September, the latest step in the city’s long-drawn reopening.
At a news conference on 23 September, Hong Kong chief executive John Lee said travellers will still be required to undergo a three-day home monitoring period, where they cannot visit restaurants and bars, but are allowed to otherwise move around the city.
The current quarantine measures – known locally as ‘3+4’ – require travellers to undergo three days of often costly hotel quarantine, and four days of home monitoring.
At the news conference, Lee also announced that inbound travellers will no longer need a negative pre-departure polymerase chain reaction test. Instead, they will be required to present a negative result from a cheaper rapid antigen test taken 24 hours before flying.
The move will give an added boost to the city’s travel and aviation sector, which has languished over the past two years after Hong Kong slammed its borders shut and imposed onerous travel curbs under a zero-infection strategy.
Welcoming the move, home carrier Cathay Pacific says: ”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.”
The airline has already revised upwards its year-end capacity projection, from 25% of pre-2019 levels to about one-third, though it said any further capacity increases would take a while, given the lack of aircraft and time needed to train up new staff.
IATA regional vice president for North Asia Xie Xingquan says the move is a “step forward”, but urged Hong Kong to remove all remaining restrictions for travellers, inluding the three-day self-monitoring period.
He adds: ”The entire aviation value chain in Hong Kong needs to be prepared for a surge in travel from pent-up demand, similar to what we have seen in other markets as soon as quarantine measures are lifted. Having the required manpower is key to avoiding the problems seen in European and US airports.”
Hong Kong’s latest announcement follows previous moves to ease restrictions, including lifting flight bans, cutting quarantine time, as well as doing away with isolation requirements for Hong Kong-based crew.
It also comes a day after Japan announced plans to swing open its international borders from 11 October, ending more than two years of restrictive entry requirements.