HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong will reduce the mandatory hotel quarantine period for overseas arrivals from one week to three days, city leaders said Monday.
The southern Chinese city remains one of the few places in the world where, along with mainland China, quarantines are required to prevent travelers from spreading COVID-19 to local residents. The policy, which took effect on Friday, will be the shortest entry quarantine in Hong Kong since the pandemic began.
Hong Kong’s leader, John Lee, said arriving travelers would have to quarantine in designated hotels for three days, followed by four days of medical monitoring, during which their movements would be restricted through the use of a health code system.
The new three-day quarantine policy was developed after analyzing scientific evidence and data to control for risk factors, Li said.
“We also have to balance risk with Hong Kong’s (people’s) economic activity and social life,” Lee said.
“(The data) tells us that the risk factors for people who have completed a three-day quarantine in a designated hotel … do not actually exceed the risk level of social transmission,” he said.
Despite the increase in daily infections, changes in COVID-19 policy persist, with city health officials warning that the number of infections could double to 8,000 in the coming weeks.
During the week of isolation and surveillance, travelers must also be regularly tested for COVID-19, and infected individuals must remain in isolation.
People who test negative can use public transport to enter malls and markets, but not bars and amusement parks, or visit nursing homes, schools and certain medical facilities.
For most of the pandemic, Hong Kong has imposed some of the strictest COVID-19 entry restrictions in the world. Once upon a time, Hong Kong mandated mandatory hotel quarantines for travelers for up to 21 days and established a “circuit breaker” mechanism that would bar certain airline flights from entering the city if they imported too many COVID-19 cases.
The measures have disrupted the city’s tourism industry and disrupted business travel in a city known as an international financial and commercial hub.
Hundreds of thousands of residents have left Hong Kong since the pandemic began. Many companies have also relocated to countries such as Singapore that have resumed quarantine-free travel.