Hong Kong scraps some Covid-19 curbs for arriving travellers if PCR tests are negative

The moves came after Mr John Lee said the government will conduct a full review of the city’s Covid-19 measures. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - Hong Kong has announced that from Wednesday, international passengers arriving in the territory would no longer face Covid-19 movement controls or be barred from certain venues, and that it was also scrapping a mandatory Covid-19 mobile application.

The news of a further loosening of Covid-19 curbs in the global financial hub, which has trailed most of the world in easing them, may boost resumption of travel and business.

An amber code issued to international arrivals for their first three days in Hong Kong meant they were not allowed to eat or drink inside bars and restaurants.

From Wednesday, travellers and all residents coming from overseas will be allowed into all locales, provided they test negative for Covid-19 on arrival, Chief Executive John Lee said in a televised briefing on Tuesday.

They will still need to show a photograph or paper record of their Covid-19 vaccines at some venues which require it, Health Secretary Lo Chung Mau told a separate press briefing the same day, but arrivals face no restrictions on moving around.

“After arriving in Hong Kong, international arrivals don’t have any restrictions. So the same day they step off the aircraft, they are free to enter any premises,” he said.

The government’s move to scrap its mobility tracking app, which grants access to restaurants and venues such as gyms, clubs and salons, comes after China dropped the requirement.

Business groups, diplomats and many residents had slammed Hong Kong’s Covid-19 rules, saying they threatened the city’s competitiveness and standing as an international financial centre.

The rules have weighed on Hong Kong’s economy since early 2020, speeding up an exodus of businesses, expatriates and local families who departed amid a drive by Beijing to more closely control the territory.

Hong Kong has closely followed China’s zero-Covid policy since 2020, but began gradually easing restrictions in August, cutting mandated hotel quarantine to three days before scrapping it completely in September, more than 2½ years after the virus emerged.

The amber code was the last remaining restriction on arrivals, who will still be subjected to a mandatory Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on arrival and one more later on.

Masks are still mandated across the city, unless one is exercising. Group gatherings of more than 12 are banned, but one can still go to nightclubs and attend banquets where hundreds of people are present.

Health Secretary Lo added that infected patients isolating at home would no longer be required to wear an electronic tag restricting them to their residences. REUTERS

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