Hong Kong announced its plan to lift flight bans on nine countries and decrease quarantine regulations from April 1.
The news was announced by chief executive Carrie Lam on March 21, a few days after stating that she understood people’s tolerance for restrictions is fading and financial institutions are losing patience over strict border controls.
Under the new policy, travellers will have to test negative for Covid-19 no more than 48 hours before boarding their flight to Hong Kong and have a booking at a quarantine hotel.
Quarantine will be halved from 14 to seven days for fully vaccinated residents returning from overseas if a negative PCR test result is returned on the fifth day, in addition to negative PCR test results on days six and seven. Arrivals can also opt to remain longer in quarantine and take a PCR test on the 12th day.
However, non-Hong Kong residents are still not allowed to enter the city, with the exception of arrivals from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan.
The soon-to-be-lifted flight ban was originally introduced on January 8 when local Omicron cases were on the rise. The flight ban covered arrivals from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States. Nepal was later on added to the list on February 12.
The restriction forbids anyone who has been to those countries in the past 14 days to board a flight back to Hong Kong. This forced Hong Kong citizens overseas to travel to a non-restricted country such as Thailand or Singapore to “wash out” for 15 days before returning to the city.
In the press conference, Lam also announced the loosening of other social-distancing measures such as reopening gyms, extending dine-in hours at restaurants and reopening bars in three phrases over three months from April 21, on the condition that Covid-19 case numbers remain stable. Schools will also resume face-to-face teaching from April 19.
During the peak of the fifth wave in Hong Kong in early March, the city logged a record-breaking 72,000 cases in one day, with an average of over 40,000 cases of Covid-19 a day. Currently, the city records an average of 22,000 cases a day. As of March 22, 72.1 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.