HK's next leader to review quarantine policy for travellers

HONG KONG • Hong Kong's incoming leader John Lee said he plans to "quickly review" mandatory quarantine measures for incoming travellers, including suggestions to isolate at home or reduce the number of days required to stay in designated hotels.

Mr Lee, who will succeed Mrs Carrie Lam as Hong Kong's chief executive on July 1, told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) that he would seek to reduce inconveniences for international travellers "without bringing extra risk to the mainland at the same time".

He also plans to prioritise the full reopening of the China border, without saying how he would accomplish both goals.

"One thing I will do very quickly together with my secretary for health is a quick review, looking at statistics and figures to ascertain how we can achieve the best result with the least cost," SCMP cited Mr Lee as saying in an interview.

Hong Kong has endured some of the world's strictest quarantine measures to keep Covid-19 at bay for more than two years, effectively shutting it off from the rest of the world.

The curbs have led to an exodus of expat workers and residents and damaged the economy, raising questions about the city's future as a financial centre.

While a travel ban on non-residents was lifted last month, provided they are fully vaccinated, all international arrivals are still subject to a seven-day hotel quarantine.

"The second thing is, what are possible interim measures and interim goals before we can reach the final goal?" Mr Lee added in the interview.

"The quarantine period is causing inconvenience to travellers. Is there a way of addressing that inconvenience so that (we can) reduce it a little bit? These are options."

The interim measures could include point-to-point travel for individuals, like a "closed-loop" arrangement, SCMP reported, citing an unidentified person.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Macau, most venues including bars, nightclubs, cinemas, gyms and hair salons were shut and dining-in services banned at restaurants, as the world's largest gambling hub struggles to contain its worst ever Covid-19 outbreak.

The mandate took effect from 5pm yesterday, according to a government statement, which did not specify how long the curbs would last.

Macau has already shut schools and public venues, and is conducting a mass testing to weed out hidden chains of community transmission.

Casinos are not affected by the restrictions for now. The city has not shut its casinos since an unprecedented 15-day closure in February 2020.

For now, Macau remains quarantine-free for travellers from low-risk areas in mainland China, while a 10-day quarantine is required for those who enter from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Portugal and some high-risk mainland regions. It is otherwise shut to the rest of the world.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2022, with the headline HK's next leader to review quarantine policy for travellers. Subscribe