Hong Kong is considering axing compulsory Covid-19 hotel quarantine for arrivals, according to the city’s health chief and local media.
Health secretary Lo Chung-mau said on a Commercial Radio show on Saturday that the government was looking into putting an end to hotel quarantine.
“As to what the mathematical formula is, whether it would be 0+7, the government is actively considering,” Lo said.
Under the current “3+4” measure, arrivals must spend three nights in a quarantine hotel and four nights under “medical surveillance” at home, during which they can go to work or school but cannot enter certain premises under the Vaccine Pass scheme, including restaurants. The 0+7 model is expected to remove the quarantine stay but restrict arrivals from some venues in the same way.
“The government does not hope to dither on these measures… our direction is to increase international connectivity,” Lo added.
Both Oriental Daily and the SCMP cited unnamed sources as saying that an end to mandatory quarantine could be announced this month.
Lo received backing from pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung in a Facebook post on Sunday, as she urged the authorities to lay out a timetable for exiting pandemic restrictions.
Transport secretary Lam Sai-hung also expressed hope that the city would reopen this year, whilst Executive Councillor Jeffrey Lam said mandatory quarantine should be scrapped as soon as possible, according to RTHK.
“I don’t want to force [the government’s hand] but I must state the voices of those from the business sector… If you can’t turn to zero right away, can you do zero plus seven [days of home quarantine]? It’d be even better if it’s zero plus three,” Lam told Commercial Radio.
Whilst much of the world has relaxed Covid-19 anti-epidemic rules, Hong Kong continues to enact strict social distancing measures, including enforcing a four person limit in public, making face masks mandatory outdoors, and requiring the use of a contact tracing app to enter certain premises.
The city is also facing a brain drain and an economic deficit as business chambers urge the government to reopen the borders.
Last week, the 2023 World Dragon Boat Racing Championships were moved to Thailand and the Hong Kong Marathon was scrapped amid the ongoing pandemic.
David Hui, a government Covid-19 advisor, also said on Sunday that the government was seeking to scrap hotel quarantine. He also suggested the requirement to obtain a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test before arrival could be axed.
As other countries ease restrictions, the costly tests have becoming increasingly difficult to find. Hui said that most arrivals will have been double jabbed against the disease anyway, according to RTHK.
Clarification 12:15: An earlier version of this article suggested that government figures had said Hong Kong may axe hotel quarantine this month, when in fact neither Health Secretary Lo Chung-Mau nor official pandemic advisor David Hui gave a timeline for any potential policy changes.
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