Hong Kong relaxes Covid quarantine rules applied to visitors from mainland China

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Hong Kong harbour

Travellers arriving in Hong Kong from mainland China will no longer be required to quarantine, according to Hong Kong’s top official, easing restrictions imposed following summer outbreaks of the coronavirus on the mainland.

People who haven’t been to medium- or high-risk areas on the mainland or Macao can enter the city starting Wednesday, with a daily limit of 2,000, according to chief executive Carrie Lam at a news conference. Travellers will still need a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival and will be subjected to multiple tests while in Hong Kong to ensure they are not infected.

In early August, Hong Kong suspended quarantine-free travel and imposed a mandatory quarantine period of seven or 14 days, depending on the traveller’s vaccination status. Hong Kong’s “zero-COVID” strategy has seen authorities impose strict border restrictions and ban flights from extremely high-risk countries in the hope that no local community spread will allow it to reopen borders with mainland China.

China currently has strict border restrictions that allow only Chinese nationals or those with valid residence permits and visas to enter the country, and all visitors must quarantine themselves for at least 14 days.

Restrictions will be eased even further next Wednesday, when mainland residents will be able to enter the city without quarantine via the Shenzhen Bay Port and the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge, each with a limit of 1,000 visitors, according to Lam. Before travelling, these visitors will also need to test negative.

The changes announced as part of the “Come2HK” plan on Wednesday, are expected to boost the city’s tourism industry, which suffered during months of political strife and pandemic-related border restrictions in 2019. Tourist numbers have dropped by up to 99 per cent in 2020 when compared to pre-pandemic levels.