Fully vaccinated travellers arriving in Hong Kong from Friday will benefit from a change in Hong Kong’s tough Covid-19 quarantine policy, the “3+4” arrangement. They must isolate in a hotel room for three nights, down from seven days. Last updated: August 11, 2022.

File photo: Tania Chan/HKFP.

Chief Executive John Lee and health chief Lo Chung-mau on Monday announced the long-awaited relaxation for travellers from anywhere outside mainland China.

What is the ‘3+4’ model?

The 3+4 model refers to three days of compulsory quarantine at a designated hotel, followed by four days of “medical surveillance” at home.

The government has also amended its computing of the quarantine period, with the day of arrival now being counted as day zero, instead of day one.

Travellers must spend three nights at the hotel. They will be required to take daily rapid antigen tests (RAT) and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on day two. If those return negative results for Covid-19, they can leave the hotel on day three.

A designated quarantine hotel in Hong Kong. Photo: GovHK.

After that, they can opt to complete the four-day medical surveillance period at home or in self-arranged accommodation, just not in a designated quarantine hotel.

Recent arrivals must continue to take daily RATs until the tenth day, and must take PCR tests on day zero, day two, day four, day six and day nine. For post-hotel quarantine PCR tests, travellers should visit a community testing centre or get swabbed at government-recognised medical institutions.

Travellers are required to self-monitor for three more days upon completing the mandated 3+4 measures.

What is ‘medical surveillance’?

Travellers will be given an electronic “medical surveillance notice” when they finish hotel quarantine. The government said medical surveillance requires people to undergo daily RATs and PCR tests on certain days, but did not explicitly outline other measures.

Arrivals must also comply with restrictions under the amber code system.

Why do arrivals have an amber code in LeaveHomeSafe?

Travellers entering medical surveillance will be given an amber code via the contact-tracing LeaveHomeSafe app. They will be allowed to leave home for shopping or other activities and go to work or school.

Red code and amber code. Photo: GovHK.

But they will be barred from entering premises where vaccine passes are “actively” inspected, such as restaurants, gyms and pubs. They also cannot visit hospitals, elderly care homes and other healthcare premises, unless seeking treatment. Exemptions will also be given to people who are employees or students at such premises.

See also: Hong Kong’s Covid-19 vaccine pass – frequently asked questions

Amber code holders must wear their masks at work or school except during mealtimes. The health chief has called on them to eat alone to reduce the risk of transmission.

Do daily RAT results need to be recorded and submitted?

Undergoing daily RATs is compulsory, however, it is unclear whether recording and submitting the test results is mandated.

When asked on Monday how authorities would ensure compliance, the chief executive did not provide a direct answer, but said they “will know” if a person does not do their tests and it would be followed up on.

The Department of Health has launched a trial run of the Electronic COVID-19 Medical Surveillance System, encouraging people undergoing quarantine to upload their RAT test results and personal health status on a voluntarily basis.

Will Hong Kong drop hotel quarantine completely?

Hong Kong has had one of the world’s strictest quarantine policies since the pandemic began more than two years ago. For months, incoming travellers were required to undergo a 21-day isolation period in a quarantine hotel, which was later reduced to 14 days and then seven.

The requirement has been widely criticised by travellers and businesses, who say it has prompted a brain drain.

New temporary specimen collection centre at the Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: GovHK.

Despite the latest relaxation, the city’s health secretary has ruled out the possibility of complete quarantine-free travel in the short term. Lo cited severe outbreaks around the world, as well as the continuous evolution of Covid variants.

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Almond Li

Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.