Hong Kong is to scrap most restrictions on prison visits from next Monday as the number of Covid-19 cases falls in the city, although “additional” visits to convicted inmates will remain suspended.

A Correctional Services Department vehicle leaves the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on April 7, 2021. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Those on remand awaiting trial will be granted a 15-minute social visit per day – the same as before the pandemic – with no more than two visitors at a time, the Correctional Services Department announced on Thursday.

Convicted inmates will again be allowed two 30-minute social visits per month, with no more than three visitors at a time.

Visitors will have to test negative using a rapid antigen test kit on the day of the visit, and declare the result upon arrival at CSD facilities.

Additional social visits will continue to be suspended, the CSD announced. Previously, convicted inmates were allowed to apply for two additional visits per month.

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Visitors will also have to show their vaccination or recovery records in accordance with the requirements of the Covid-19 vaccine pass, and use the government’s contact tracing mobile application LeaveHomeSafe to register their visit.

Limited visits since February

Social visits were suspended from early February, as Hong Kong suffered a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases caused by the more infectious Omicron variant.

Shek Pik Prison. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

During the suspension, the CSD also imposed “cell lockdowns” as infections increased. Remand prisoners were not allowed to attend court hearings, and all inmates and staff were tested. In early March, the department said that around 1,000 inmates tested positive.

The suspension lasted until March 24, when limited visits were allowed. Arrangements were relaxed again on April 21 to allow more frequent visits.

The city recorded 321 new infections and five deaths on Thursday, bringing the total to 1,205,396 cases and 9,328 deaths since the pandemic began over two years ago.

Since the implementation of the Beijing-imposed national security law, many of the city’s prominent pro-democracy figures have been remanded in custody or jailed. Many of those arrested in relation to an opposition primary election have spent over 14 months on remand with no trial date set.

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Candice Chau

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.