HONG KONG - Hong Kong said on Friday it will scrap its Covid-19 hotel quarantine policy for all arrivals from next Monday, more than 2.5 years after it was first implemented.
It is a long-awaited move for many residents and businesses in the financial hub.
Chief Executive John Lee said the current three days of hotel quarantine would be reduced to zero for those arriving into Hong Kong from overseas and Taiwan.
All international arrivals will be able to return home or to an accommodation of their choice but will have to self monitor for three days after entering the Chinese special administrative hub, a system authorities have dubbed "0+3".
They will be allowed to go to work or school but will not be allowed to enter bars or restaurants for the period.
“Under this arrangement, the quarantine hotel system will be cancelled,” Lee told reporters.
A pre-flight PCR test which was required for travellers to Hong Kong 48 hours before flying will be replaced by a Rapid Antigen Test.
The changes come ahead of several high-profile events including an international banking summit and the iconic Rugby Sevens tournament that are slated for November.
Bankers have stipulated that a cut in quarantine rules would be needed in order for them to attend, while the city has more broadly been struggling to stem a brain drain after more than two years of strict virus rules.
Hong Kong is a global outlier outside mainland China in imposing hotel quarantine for international arrivals, in line with the country’s “dynamic zero” Covid-19 strategy.
Business groups, diplomats and many residents have criticised the city’s Covid-19 rules, saying they threaten Hong Kong’s competitiveness and standing as a global financial centre.
All international arrivals currently spend three days in a self-paid hotel followed by four days of self-monitoring where they are allowed to move around the city. Hotel quarantine was as much as three weeks before being gradually eased earlier this year.
The rules have weighed on Hong Kong’s economy since early 2020 and fuelled an exodus of both expats and local families that was kick-started by Beijing’s efforts to exert control on the city. Some 113,000 people have left since mid 2021, according to government figures.
Scores of flights have stopped operating to and from Hong Kong, which used to be one of the world’s busiest and most efficient airports.
The city has lost its position as a global aviation hub due to China’s zero-Covid-19 policy, head of airlines group IATA said this week.
Hong Kong has reported more than 1.7 million Covid-19 infections and 9,934 deaths since the pandemic began. AFP, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS