Hong Kong has finally axed its controversial Covid-19 hotel quarantine requirement for inbound travellers, more than two years after the policy was first put in place.

Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Chief Executive John Lee said last Friday that the long-awaited move came after the government decided that the transmission risk from inbound travellers was not higher than the risk of local transmission. The administration also took into account people’s livelihood, economic activities, Hong Kong’s competitiveness and other factors, the city’s leader said.

The measure has been blamed for undermining the city’s international status and contributing to an exodus of talent.

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

Here is what you need to know about Hong Kong’s latest boarding and quarantine arrangements if you are visiting from overseas. Last update: 29/9/2022

Do I need to do a PCR test before my flight?

No. The pre-departure PCR test requirement has been scrapped.

Instead, you need to obtain a negative result from any over-the-counter rapid antigen test (RAT) conducted within 24 hours before your scheduled flight to Hong Kong.

Before you depart, you must complete an online Health Declaration Health Form. After entering your personal particulars and travel details, the system will ask you to declare whether you have conducted the pre-departure RAT, or to acknowledge that you are aware of the need to take one.

The online health declaration form. Photo: screenshot.

While the government system does not require you to upload proof of your negative RAT result, travellers arriving in Hong Kong on Monday told HKFP that their RAT result was checked by airline staff at check-in.

Under Hong Kong’s prevention and control of disease legislation, travellers are required to report relevant information concerning their health and their travel history.

Anyone who contravenes or knowingly gives false information to the Department of Health is liable on conviction to a HK$10,000 fine and to six months’ imprisonment.

In other situations in the city where a RAT conducted within 24 hours is required for entry to certain premises – such as schools and bars – you are asked to present a photo of the test cartridge with your name, the date and the time the test was taken written on it.

After submitting the declaration and upon confirmation that you meet all boarding requirements, you will receive a green QR code from the system. You will need to save the code by downloading it, taking a screenshot or printing it out.

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

What do I do with the green health declaration QR code?

The green code should be presented at check-in for verification by airline staff for boarding. You should also show the code to border control point personnel upon arriving in Hong Kong.

If you are arriving via Hong Kong International Airport, your QR code is valid for 96 hours. For arrivals through land control points, the code will expire after 24 hours.

What is the vaccination requirement for boarding a flight to Hong Kong?

Hong Kong residents are no longer required to be fully vaccinated in order to board a flight to their home city. However, those who have not yet received their Covid-19 jabs will be barred from entering a number of types of premise under the city’s Vaccine Pass scheme.

To obtain a Vaccine Pass upon arrival, unvaccinated residents must follow existing procedures – that is, getting vaccinated.

Coronavirus vaccination in Hong Kong. Photo: GovHK.

Non-Hong Kong residents aged 12 or above are still required to have been fully vaccinated to enter the city, or they must obtain a medical exemption certificate before flying to Hong Kong.

Details of how many doses qualifies as full vaccination for each brand of Covid-19 vaccine can be found here.

How many PCR tests do I have to do after arriving in Hong Kong?

You are required to do four PCR tests in total – one at the airport on the day of your arrival, which is counted as day zero, and again on days two, four and six after entering the city.

The on-arrival PCR test conducted at the airport is free of charge. For the subsequent PCR tests, you may visit a Community Testing Centre or a mobile specimen collection station to get tested for free. You can also visit a recognised medical testing institution, although you have to pay to get tested there.

A Covid-19 mobile testing centre in Hong Kong. File photo: GovHK.

Do I have to wait for my PCR test result at the airport?

No. Hong Kong now adopts a “test-and-go” policy, which means inbound travellers are allowed to proceed through immigration and customs clearance, claim their baggage and leave the airport after their specimen is collected for the nucleic test.

What kind of transportation can I take from the airport to my home or hotel?

Inbound arrivals can choose to take public transport, a taxi or arrange other transportation to return to their home or hotel.

Am I still subject to compulsory quarantine?

No. Inbound travellers are no longer required to undergo compulsory quarantine, but are instead placed under observation for seven days.

A Covid-19 rapid antigen test. File photo: Brett Jordan, via Flickr.

You will be subject to medical surveillance until day three, during which you will be issued an amber QR code via the government’s LeaveHomeSafe contact tracing app. This means you are free to leave your home or hotel but are restricted from entering premises under the city’s Vaccine Pass scheme.

You must take daily RATs and only go out once a negative result is confirmed.

You should take a photo immediately after reading the RAT result and save the photos for inspection when requested by government staff. You will also need to record the results on a health surveillance form.

If you return a negative result from your day-two PCR test and daily RATs, you can complete the medical surveillance on the morning of day three, when the amber code restrictions will be lifted.

Following the medical surveillance period, you should self-monitor over the subsequent four days by doing daily RATs until day seven.

What are the Amber Code restrictions?

The amber code bars inbound travellers from entering premises involving mask-off or group activities, or places the government deems as needing key protection.

During the three days of medical surveillance, you can take the public transport, go to work, enter supermarkets and markets and do other “low-risk” daily essential activities.

But you are not allowed to enter premises that are subject to “active checking” of the Vaccine Pass, where you would be asked to scan your code before entry.

A restaurant in Hong Kong under the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: GovHK.

Some examples include restaurants, bars, nightclubs, fitness centres, party rooms, club houses, karaoke establishments, hair salons, beauty parlours, indoor event places, religious premises and more.

Residential care homes and healthcare premises are also off limits, as are schools in some instances.

What if I work or study in those premises?

If you hold an amber code and you work or study in the regulated premises mentioned above, or you receive services at a certain healthcare centre, you are not bound by restrictions under the Vaccine Pass.

However, your employer or those in charge of the premises may impose additional rules before granting your entry.

What happens if I test positive for Covid-19 after arrival?

Inbound travellers who test positive for Covid-19 upon arrival will be handled the same way as local cases. Subject to your living environment, you could be sent to a government isolation facility or undergo quarantine at home.

The QR code in your Vaccine Pass will turn red, barring you from leaving isolation.

Are there still other Covid restrictions in Hong Kong?

Mask-wearing is mandatory in Hong Kong, although you may remove your mask in country parks or when you are exercising in outdoor public areas.

Public group gatherings of more than four people also remain prohibited, while the number of participants of local group tours is also limited depending on the vaccination status of the tour staff and Covid-19 testing requirements.

Catering premises can host up to eight people per table. If you wish to eat out in a group of more than eight people, a negative RAT result is required to enter the restaurant. Proof of a negative RAT result is also required to enter bars.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.