Hong Kong 'unlikely' to scrap Covid-19 hotel quarantine before July

Cleaners in protective gear dumping garbage outside a quarantine hotel in Hong Kong on April 2, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong will probably keep mandatory hotel quarantine requirements for incoming travellers until at least the end of June, its outgoing leader said, despite business leaders' growing calls to join the rest of the world in opening up.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday (May 24) at a regular press briefing that a "significant amount" of the city's daily infections still came from imported cases.

Considering new variants were emerging globally, the financial hub still had to be extremely careful in loosening restrictions on border controls, Mrs Lam added.

"It's very unlikely that during my term there would be more relaxations on the border controls," she said.

"In other words, we will still have the hotel quarantine. We will still require vaccination before a passenger can board a plane to Hong Kong and we will still impose the test and hold, whether at the airport or at a hotel, for a PCR test, in order to keep Hong Kong safe."

Mrs Lam's term expires at the end of next month, clearing the way for former Chief Secretary John Lee to be installed as leader on July 1 - the 25th anniversary of the city's handover from British to Chinese rule.

Hong Kong stocks extended declines after Mrs Lam's comments. The city's benchmark Hang Seng Index fell as much as 1.6 per cent, with flagship carrier Cathay Pacific Airways dropping as much as 1.7 per cent.

Hong Kong is under pressure from the city's business community and foreign airlines to drop its notorious mandatory hotel quarantine for incoming vaccinated travellers - a policy that's isolated the financial hub and been criticised as ineffective after failing to keep out the Omicron variant.

While tight border controls have left Hong Kong lagging, the city has drifted in recent months from President Xi Jinping's Covid Zero policy that strives to eliminate all community infection and has plunged mainland cities into lockdown.

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