Scenes of families and friends reuniting returned to the arrival halls at Hong Kong International Airport for the first time in more than two years on Monday after the government axed the hotel quarantine requirement for inbound travellers.

People burst in tears as they reunite at the Hong Kong International Airport on September 26, 2022, the first day Hong Kong officially scrapped the hotel quarantine requirement for inbound travellers. Photo: Lea Mok/HKF

One 13-year-old girl ran directly into her mother’s arms, crying: “the food overseas was terrible.” Her mother, Mrs Liu, smiled and said she was happy to spend three more days with her daughter, referring to the amount of time the teenager would have had to spend isolating in a hotel under the previous arrangement.

One 13-year-old girl ran directly into her mother’s arms, crying “the food overseas was terrible.” Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

“It’s better late then never,” one inbound traveller told HKFP on Monday, when asked about the timing of the relaxation.

Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Wong, a UK university fresh graduate who stayed in the UK for years because of the strict quarantine requirement, said he never thought the city’s zero-Covid policy could work. “We should start opening up,” he said.

Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

From Monday, when the rule requiring arrivals to quarantine in a hotel was scrapped, inbound travellers can go out and about during their first three days in Hong Kong while they are under “medical surveillance” – albeit subject to PCR requirements and restricted from certain types of premises.

Looking forward to “0+0”

“I’m very happy it’s 0+3. I’m looking forward to when it’s ‘0+0’,” Ray, an American businessman who has been living in Hong Kong for years, told HKFP, referring to the complete dropping of quarantine restrictions .

The American businessman Ray. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

“My family and I have done 21 days of quarantine before, and it’s a surprise that we could just do three days at home now,” he said.

Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Ray added that he had thought about leaving Hong Kong because of the strict quarantine arrangements, which negatively impacted his business and travel plans. “Everybody is traveling but us,” he said.

Not all airline staff on board

Mr And Mrs Lam, who arrived from the UK after transferring in Doha, told HKFP that airport staff in Doha had asked to see their quarantine hotel receipts and PCR-test certificates, as they were not aware of the changes to Hong Kong’s entry requirements.

Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

“We showed our negative RAT kits to the ground staff at Doha airport… they asked us how we could prove they were ours. We just told them ‘well, we didn’t take video of us doing the test’,” Mr Lam told HKFP.

The Green Health Declaration Code. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Prior to departure, travellers will receive a green QR code after filling in an online declaration form.

Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Most travellers on Monday said it took less than an hour between landing at the airport and proceeding to the arrival halls, including the time required to do a PCR test.

Migrant domestic workers

Under the new arrangement, migrant domestic workers can start working immediately. Imelda, a domestic helper from Philippines, told HKFP that it is now much easier for domestic workers to visit their families overseas.

Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

“I used to visit my family twice a year before the pandemic, but [I] haven’t seen them for two years. My employer sent me to the Philippines again because of the relaxed quarantine requirement,” Imelda said.

Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.
Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.
Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.
Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.
Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.
Inbound travellers arriving at the Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.
Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.
Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

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Lea Mok

Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.