Hong Kong to speed up arrivals with electronic health declaration rule

Health workers directing travellers to transportation to their quarantine hotel in Hong Kong International Airport on July 12, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong will require travellers to the city to fill out an electronic health declaration form before boarding a flight, no longer allowing them to do the paperwork after landing, in an effort to make the process more efficient.

The new system will begin on July 28 on a trial basis, the government said in a statement.

In addition to standard health and arrival details, passengers must provide proof of vaccination and a reference number for a quarantine hotel stay in order to get the QR code needed to board a flight into the Asian financial hub, the government said.

While most passengers already fill out the forms in advance, the few who do not can slow the arrival process and lengthen the time that travellers must spend at the Hong Kong International Airport, the statement said.

Passengers must still present documents and those without a QR code will be allowed to board during the trial period.

Hong Kong's extensive and specific rules around vaccinations, testing and quarantine hotel bookings have caused confusion and controversy for travellers, as mistakes can derail plans and sorting them out can cause airport backlogs.

The city plans to fully implement the electronic declaration form in August, making the pre-boarding documentation verification system digital and reducing the manpower it currently takes to carry out.

"Completing the health declaration prior to boarding allows smoother arrival quarantine procedures for inbound persons," a government spokesman said in the statement. "It will also facilitate the gradual introduction of electronic processing of arrival quarantine procedures, thereby reducing the need for manual processing and hence the waiting time and bottlenecks."

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee has introduced several new policies aimed at simplifying Covid-19 rules since taking over at the start of July.

His administration earlier this month suspended a system that banned airlines from flying routes that brought in high numbers of passengers infected with Covid-19. It also ended mandatory isolation in government-run facilities for patients with the most highly transmissible subvariants of the virus.

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