Hong Kong has dropped its Covid-19 vaccination requirement for non-residents, meaning that unvaccinated tourists can enter the city again from Monday.

Hong Kong International Airport
Arrivals at the Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: GovHK.

Chief Executive John Lee made the announcement at a press conference on Friday, a day after announcing the government’s “Hello Hong Kong” campaign, aimed at reviving tourism after three years of strict coronavirus rules.

Since the city reopened its borders for non-residents in May, they have been required to meet Hong Kong’s vaccination requirements to enter. Hong Kong barred non-residents from coming in March 2020 due to Covid-19.

International arrivals are still required to obtain a negative result from a Covid rapid test taken within 24 hours of their departure to board a flight to the city.

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. File photo: U.S. Secretary of Defense, via Wikicommons.

Travellers to Hong Kong have been subjected to stringent restrictions since the coronavirus emerged in early 2020. At their strictest, arrivals had to undergo three weeks of hotel quarantine at their own expense, in addition to being required to take multiple Covid-19 tests.

The government also imposed a flight ban mechanism, which saw over 100 flights banned because at least five passengers – or five per cent of travellers, whichever was higher – tested positive for Covid-19 upon arrival.

The International Air Transport Association, a trade association representing almost 300 of the world’s airlines, said last April that Hong Kong was “effectively off the map” because of its Covid curbs.

‘Back on the centre stage’

However, with most restrictions relaxed, Hong Kong was “back on centre stage,” Lee said at the launch of the “Hello Hong Kong” campaign on Thursday.

YouTube video

“Hong Kong is now seamlessly connected to the mainland of China and the whole international world,” he said. “There will be no isolation, quarantine, and no restrictions on experiencing our great wine and dine scene, on doing business… and on enjoying the hustle and bustle of Asia’s world city.”

As part of the “Hello Hong Kong” campaign, the government will distribute 500,000 plane tickets to visitors, initially targeting the Southeast Asian market. The city’s airlines will hand them out through promotional activities such as lucky draws, buy-one-get-one-free offers and games.

Separately, there will also be a giveaway of 80,000 tickets to residents in the Greater Bay Area to encourage them to the city, as well as 80,000 tickets for Hong Kong residents to travel abroad.

john lee hello hong kong
Chief Executive John Lee at the launch ceremony of publicity campaign “Hello Hong Kong.” Photo: GovHK.

The giveaway to Hong Kong residents, Fred Lam, the Chief Executive Officer of the Airport Authority Hong Kong said, was “a way to let Hong Kong people share the same joy that this campaign would bring about.”

Hong Kong has relaxed most of its Covid-19 measures in recent weeks, including scrapping a cap on group gatherings and the need to scan a mobile app before entering restaurants and other premises.

A mask mandate in all public places, including outdoors, is still in place, although authorities said they would consider scrapping it after the winter flu season, which normally runs from January to March or April.

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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.