Hong Kong will no longer require members of the public to scan their Covid-19 LeaveHomeSafe app to access restaurants and other businesses starting from Wednesday, though vaccine proof will still be needed.

LeaveHomeSafe QR codes. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Arrivals will also not be issued an amber code in their LeaveHomeSafe app, meaning that people will be able to visit restaurants and other businesses during their first three days of landing in Hong Kong. Vaccine proof, several rounds of testing, and a health declaration will still be mandatory to enter the city.

See also: A Covid-19 ‘living museum’: Is Hong Kong really ‘back in business’?

Making the announcement at a press conference on Tuesday, Chief Executive John Lee said the adjustments were based on data and risk assessment.

“The risk of imported cases to Hong Kong is even lower than the risk of getting infected in the community,” Lee said. “Cancelling the amber code [arrangements] will not increase the risk of getting infected locally.”

The arrival hall at the Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

He added that under the new rules, the LeaveHomeSafe app will only issue two different codes – red for those infected with Covid-19, and blue for those not infected.

The use of the Vaccine Pass, however, will still be required to enter businesses.

The leader said health chief Lo Chung-mau would announce further details of the relaxations at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Three years of Covid-19 rules

Almost three years on since the first coronavirus case was confirmed locally, Hong Kong continues to maintain strict Covid-19 restrictions long dropped around the world.

Residents are still required to wear face masks, including outdoors, and a gathering limit remains in force for groups larger than 12.

Arrivals to the city are also subject to two PCR tests and daily rapid tests for their first five days in the city.

Lee’s announcement on Tuesday come after the leader said the government would review the city’s Covid-19 measures, including the use of LeaveHomeSafe. The move comes after China’s nationwide loosening of pandemic rules – among them relaxing Covid-19 test requirements and the use of a health code premises including subway stations.

Chief Executive John Lee meets the press on November 29, 2022. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Lo, the health chief, had said earlier that Hong Kong would not “hastily” follow the mainland’s relaxations given differences in the two places’ population and vaccination rate.

In response to a question from HKFP on Tuesday about how the remaining restrictions in Hong Kong can be justified, Lee said the city’s Covid-19 measures are based on “actual figures, data and risk assessment.”

A shopping mall LeaveHomeSafe QR in Hong Kong on Tuesday, March 2. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

He added that the resumption of “normal travel” with the mainland was “close to [his] heart.”

“I’ll do everything that can facilitate it, but we also must be aware that the decision must similarly be made on the actual situation… but I think that all people want to have as few restrictions as possible,” Lee said.

Hong Kong has seen 2.26 million cases of the virus since the onset of the pandemic, and 10,984 deaths according to the government’s Covid dashboard on Tuesday.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.