Hong Kong is lifting its strict hotel quarantine for inbound travelers that has eroded the city’s status as a financial center, hammered the economy and caused an exodus of residents.
The policy of quarantining visitors and residents at one point for three weeks in a hotel had been in effect for two and a half years, effectively cutting off the city from the rest of the world and mainland China.
John Lee, the city’s chief executive, said the quarantine requirement would be lifted from Monday, but travelers would be subject to testing and monitoring three days after landing.
“We need to provide as much space as possible to enable connectivity to the world so that we can have economic momentum and reduce inconvenience to arriving travelers,” Lee said Friday.
Hong Kong has been forced to implement a version of Beijing’s stifling zero-Covid-19 policy, though it has escaped the strict lockdowns that have paralyzed Chinese megacities.
But after a devastating wave of the Omicron variant swept through the city and a change of leadership, authorities have slowly eased restrictions. Currently, travelers have to stay in a hotel for three days.
Friday’s announcement followed intensive lobbying by both the international and local business community.
“Business is suffering greatly due to the inability to travel,” said a senior executive at a Hong Kong-listed developer. “General economic sentiment is very bad and needs a major rebound.”
The policy change also precedes a major financial forum and the return of the Rugby Sevens tournament in early November. City leaders hope the events will draw businesses back into Chinese territory.
Beijing appeared to authorize Hong Kong authorities on Tuesday to relax border measures. Huang Liuquan, the deputy head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, said it would be “understandable” if officials relaxed restrictions.
Passengers who test positive on arrival must isolate themselves at home, in a hotel or in a community isolation center.
But travelers no longer need to take a PCR test 48 hours before arriving in Hong Kong and are allowed to self-check for three days. But they will still be banned from restaurants and bars during that period.