Hong Kong is said to be preparing to announce the end of mandatory hotel quarantine for international inbound travellers in a major rollback of pandemic restrictions that have hobbled the city’s status as a financial and travel hub.
Local media have cited anonymous sources who claim the official announcement could come as soon as next week. Under the government’s new plans, hotel quarantine would be dropped altogether, and travelers would only be expected to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for seven days.
At present, inbound passengers must quarantine in a hotel room for three days before undergoing four days of self-monitoring. Pandemic rules have been gradually loosened over a number of months, but the city is under pressure to roll back most remaining restrictions ahead of a key bankers summit in November.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong lifted mandatory quarantine rules for pilots and cabin crew arriving in the territory, although crew members are still subjected to a COVID-19 test on arrival, and locally-based aircrew must adhere to strict ‘closed loop’ protocols during international layovers.
The city has also dropped mandatory temperature testing on most inbound travelers passing through Hong Kong International Airport – an apparent response to a now-deleted warning from the U.S. State Department that travelers should avoid transiting through the airport over fears they could be thrown into quarantine for presenting with an elevated temperature.
Government officials are keen to rebuild Hong Kong’s reputation as a key international transit stop, but airlines will need time to rebuild operations, and travelers demand certainty and as little bureaucracy as possible.
Bankers have been allegedly pushing the city to drop post-arrival COVID-19 testing because the risk of being sent to quarantine for a positive test could put many travelers off even bothering to come to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has maintained some of the strictest pandemic rules in the world but is coming under increasing pressure to reopen to the world as the public mood toward COVID curbs starts to shift.
At the same time, however, the Chinese territory has been heavily influenced by Beijing’s ‘Zero COVID’ mantra making its journey towards a return to normalcy more difficult than surrounding countries in the region.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.