Hong Kong has tightened coronavirus quarantine requirements for 15 countries including the United States which are now deemed to be “high-risk,” citing threats from the more infectious Delta variant.
“Despite large-scale vaccination programmes, many places are also experiencing a resurgence of the virus, which poses enormous challenges to our local anti-epidemic efforts,” a government spokesperson said on Monday.
Bangladesh, Cambodia, France, Greece, Iran, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the US will be listed as “high-risk” from Friday, meaning that only fully vaccinated residents of Hong Kong will be allowed to travel from those nations to the city.
They will have to undergo 21 days of quarantine and take four tests during that period, followed by seven days of self-monitoring, and another test on the 26th day after arrival.
Unvaccinated residents of Hong Kong or those without a recognised vaccination record can only enter the city if they did not stay in any high-risk areas for more than two hours in the 21 days before arrival.
In addition, Australia will be moved from low-risk to the “medium-risk” group from Friday, meaning that only residents of Hong Kong and fully vaccinated non-residents will be allowed to enter the city.
Unvaccinated residents will have to undergo 21 days of quarantine and take four tests during the period. Fully vaccinated travellers will be quarantined for 14 days and tested three times. They will also have to self-monitor for seven days after their quarantine, and take two more tests on their 16th and 19th day after arrival.
A shorter quarantine period of seven days will be available for “medium risk” arrivals who are fully vaccinated and have tested positive for antibodies. They must take two tests during quarantine and self-monitor for another seven days, as well as taking tests on the 9th, 12th, 16th and 19th day after arrival.
Hong Kong, which has some of the world’s toughest quarantine restrictions, reported three Covid-19 infections on Monday, all of which were imported cases. The city has recorded 12,037 cases and 212 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic 18 months ago.
Leading Hong Kong University microbiologist Ho Pak-leung criticised the decision to shorten the quarantine period for those travelling from “medium-risk” areas who test positive for antibodies.
The criticism came after a fully vaccinated 38-year-old woman travelling from the US tested positive for Covid-19 last Saturday. She had previously tested positive for antibodies, and was quarantined for only seven days as per government regulations at the time.
Ho said in a RTHK radio programme that the government made several mistakes when changing the city’s quarantine policies, including listing the US as a medium-risk area prior to the change announced on Monday.
Ho said the situation in the US has been worsening over the past month, with the country leading the world in terms of the number of new infections, “I cannot understand at all why the US was listed as a medium-risk area.”
The microbiologist added that the government’s decision to shorten quarantine periods for those who test positive for antibodies was not based on sound scientific evidence, as the Covid-19 incubation period for these people might still be longer than a week.