The quarantine period for incoming travellers to Hong Kong might be shortened as the government reviews its Covid-19 social distancing measures and quarantine policies over the coming days. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at Thursday’s press briefing that new announcements may be made on Sunday or next Monday, as it considers whether to carry out citywide compulsory testing.

Currently, fully vaccinated citizens who test positive for Covid-19 can leave their household or quarantine facility if they test negative using rapid antigen tests on the sixth and seventh day of quarantine. However, travellers visiting Hong Kong from overseas – even if they test negative – still have to undergo 14 days of isolation at a hotel.

hong kong international airport quarantine order coronavirus
File photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

“In terms of consistency, there is a very strong basis for us to apply more or less the same rule to arrivals,” said the chief executive during her daily Covid-19 press conference on Thursday.

Lam said that she detected the tolerance of Hongkongers for strict social distancing measures was waning, as she considered the city’s status as a financial centre: “The reason why I think the time has come [for a review] is not because the number of cases has come down significantly – they are actually now at a high-level plateau. But I have a very strong feeling that people’s tolerance is fading.”

She added that financial institutions were losing patience with the city’s “isolated status.”

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The potential change comes after HKFP asked Lam last week about the inconsistencies between the policy for arrivals verses Covid-positive residents. She said she understood the frustration but did not want to further burden the health system: “[T]o make any relaxation for arrivals which will run any risk in those respects is not something the chief executive would like to see.”

“But I did say that after this wave subsides, we will take an overall look at the border control, particularly for inbound arrivals, particularly for Hong Kong people who are now not allowed to come back because of the place-specific flight suspensions,” she said at the time.

Hong Kong has been battling a fifth wave of Covid-19, with the city reporting 790,822 infections and 4,847 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic over two years ago.

Restrictions review

On Thursday, Lam added that the government will review other Covid-19 restrictions.

The city has seen the implementation of the strictest social distancing policies following the outbreak of the fifth wave of infections.

Carrie Lam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam meeting the press on March 17. Photo: Video screenshot, via RTHK.

“I think the time has come for the government to have a mid-term review of all those measures announced on the 22nd of February, ranging from border controls, such as flight bans, to quarantine period for arrivals, to whether we are going to do this compulsory universal test, and the resumption of face-to-face learning in schools, and social distancing measures,” said the chief executive.

The government also issued a statement on Thursday night saying that information circulating on the internet about the implementation details of citywide compulsory testing was not an official announcement.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.