HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong will reduce its mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals abroad to three days out of a week, the city leader said Monday.
The southern China city remains one of the few places in the world, along with mainland China, where a quarantine is required to prevent travelers from spreading COVID-19 to locals. The policy, which comes into effect on Friday, will be the shortest quarantine for arrivals in Hong Kong since the start of the pandemic.
Hong Kong leader John Lee said arriving travelers will be required to quarantine for three days at a designated hotel and then undergo medical surveillance for four days, restricting their movements through the use of a health code system.
Lee said the new policy of just three days of quarantine was made after scientific evidence and data were analyzed to manage the risk factors.
“We also need to weigh the risks against the economic activities and social life of (people in) Hong Kong,” Lee said.
“(The data) gives us the indication that the risk factor of people who have been quarantined for three days in a designated hotel … is actually no more than the risk level of transmission in the society,” he said.
The changes to COVID-19 policy come despite an increase in daily infections, which city health officials warn could double to 8,000 in the coming weeks.
During their week of quarantine and surveillance, travelers will also be required to test regularly for COVID-19 and those infected must remain in isolation.
Those who test negative can use public transportation and enter shopping centers and markets, but they are not allowed to enter bars and amusement parks or visit retirement homes, schools and certain medical facilities.
For most of the pandemic, Hong Kong has imposed some of the world’s strictest COVID-19 entry restrictions. At one point, Hong Kong required up to 21 days of mandatory hotel quarantine for travelers and a “circuit breaker” mechanism that would ban flights from certain airlines to the city if they import too many COVID-19 cases.
These measures have devastated the city’s tourism industry and disrupted business travel in a city known as an international financial and business hub.
Hundreds of thousands of residents have left Hong Kong since the start of the pandemic. Many companies have also moved to countries like Singapore where quarantine-free travel has resumed.