Travellers and close contacts of Covid-19 patients in Hong Kong who have been vaccinated will face reduced quarantine periods, while thousands currently in quarantine facilities will be released early if they test negative for the virus, health authorities announced Friday in a major easing of tough rules.

CHP Director Ronald Lam. Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

People will be considered fully vaccinated at least 14 days after they have completed all required dosages of vaccines accepted by the World Health Organisation or China’s National Medical Products Administration, officials told a press briefing.

Meanwhile, thousands of residents of apartment blocks in Kornhill, Pok Fu Lam, Tsuen Wan and Tung Chung will be released early from a 21-day quarantine period in a government centre if they test negative for the virus and undergo repeated virus tests afterwards.

Centre for Health Protection Director Ronald Lam said the previous decision to place thousands in quarantine for three weeks had not been an over-reaction. “We noted from our investigation that most of the cases at the time were from unknown sources,” said Lam.

“We have to adopt the most prudent approach and the most stringent measures… to prevent further transmission within the community. So that definitely [was] not over-reaction, but a very cautious approach to protect the health of Hong Kong.”

Shorter quarantine for vaccinated travellers

Starting from midnight next Wednesday, inbound travellers will be categorised into four groups depending on the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic in their countries of origin.

Group A1 Countries — Brazil, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa: All commercial flights from these destinations remain banned and residents who stayed in these countries for more than two hours are not allowed to enter Hong Kong.

Group A2 Countries — Ireland and the UK: The compulsory hotel quarantine period will be 21 days for all travellers from these two countries, whether or not they are vaccinated.

Group B and C Countries — Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the US, and all other countries not listed in groups A1, A2, B, D and except China (the mainland, Macau and Taiwan):

  • Unvaccinated individuals must undergo 21 days of hotel quarantine.
  • Fully vaccinated individuals are required:
    • to undergo hotel quarantine for 14 days
    • to self-monitor for seven days afterwards
    • to take a virus test on the 19th and 26th day after arrival.

Group D Countries — Singapore, New Zealand, Australia:

  • Unvaccinated individuals are required to undergo 14 days of hotel quarantine.
  • Fully vaccinated individuals are required:
    • to undergo hotel quarantine for seven days
    • to self-monitor for seven days afterwards
    • to take a virus test on the 12th and 19th day after arrival

Travellers from the mainland not through the Return2HK Scheme:

  • Unvaccinated individuals are required to undergo 14 days of home quarantine
  • Fully vaccinated individuals are required:
    • to undergo home quarantine for seven days
    • to self-monitor for seven days afterwards
    • to take a virus test on the 12th day after arrival
File Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

“The whole situation is being scrutinised and discussed by the joint scientific committee,” said Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan of the changes, adding that data from around the world was being considered.

The changes could help boost the government’s free vaccination programme, which has had a relatively slow uptake.

Building lockdowns and evacuations

Currently, residents of apartment blocks with a resident who tested positive for the N501Y mutant strain, with an unknown source of infection, will all be ordered into government quarantine facilities for 21 days. From Wednesday the building will be placed under lockdown for all residents to undergo mandatory testing.

Residents who test negative will have to test again on the 3rd, 7th, 12th and 19th day counting from the start of the lockdown, while other contacts of residents are required to self-monitor.

People who live in subdivided flats or other types of cramped living quarters may still be ordered into a quarantine facility for the full 21 days. If more than one case is found in the same building with suspected transmission within the premises, the government may also consider quarantining the whole building.

Close contacts of patients

Fully vaccinated close contacts of Covid-19 patients will face shortened quarantine periods, depending on whether the patients were infected by mutant strains.

Close contacts of Covid-19 patients not infected by a mutant strain will be required to undergo seven days in home quarantine with an electronic monitoring wristband, subject to the following conditions:

  • They are able to produce a proof of complete vaccination
  • They test negative in a Covid-19 PCR test on the first day of quarantine
  • They test positive for Covid-19 antibodies using a serology test.

Close contacts of Covid-19 patients infected by a mutant strain will have to undergo 14 days of quarantine at a designated facility and seven days of self-monitoring afterwards, subject to the following conditions:

  • They are able to produce a proof of complete vaccination
  • They test negative in Covid-19 PCR tests on the 7th, 9th, and 12th day of quarantine
  • They test positive for Covid-19 antibodies using a serology test
  • They undergo a mandatory virus test at a community testing centre, 19 days after the start of the quarantine period.

Hong Kong had recorded 11,802 Covid-19 cases and 210 deaths as of Friday.

Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.