Hong Kong should cut quarantine to one week, lawmaker says

A woman leaves a quarantine hotel in Hong Kong on Feb 6, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong should reduce the amount of time travellers need to quarantine to one week, but the city shouldn't open up to the world without locking down and testing the whole population for Covid-19, lawmaker Michael Tien said.

Mr Tien said a mandatory testing blitz of Hong Kong's 7.5 million residents should coincide with a nine-day city-wide lockdown to arrest the city's worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic started.

He also said opening the border to China should be a "secondary consideration" at the moment.

"I think the hotel quarantine period for anyone coming in should be reduced to seven days," Mr Tien said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Monday (March 21). "At this point I think letting come back and relaxing quarantine for overseas travellers is more important to Hong Kong" than opening the border with China, he added.

The testing drive and lockdown should occur in mid-April, said Mr Tien, a Hong Kong lawmaker and founder of the G2000 Group chain of clothing stores.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam is expected to later Monday announce changes to the city's pandemic response, after last week flagging a review spurred by frustration within the financial and general community.

Hong Kong reported 14,149 confirmed Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the lowest daily toll in more than three weeks, signalling the outbreak is trending down from a peak of more than 50,000 daily cases earlier this month.

Still, fatalities have remained at the highest levels since the pandemic began and the death rate is among the world's worst.

The authorities have come under intense scrutiny for their handling of the outbreak, with a lack of preparation leading to an explosion in cases and wave of deaths, particularly among the under-vaccinated elderly.

The financial hub focused on keeping the virus out with border curbs and some of the lengthiest traveller quarantines in the world, leaving it vulnerable when the more contagious Omicron variant managed to snake through those defences.

The approach has left the financial hub highly isolated, as it persists with the Covid Zero policy favoured by the mainland.

The travel curbs are a key concern of Hong Kong's financial community, with bankers from Goldman Sachs Group to Bank of America Corp caught up in the oft-shifting restrictions.

The curbs and explosive outbreak have spurred record outflows of people from the city, with many either heading to the mainland or to other parts of Asia, particularly rival financial centre Singapore.

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