Visitors to Hong Kong’s public hospitals and residential care homes will no longer have to take a Covid-19 rapid antigen test beforehand as of this Saturday. Mandatory daily rapid testing for staff will also be axed.

Public hospital
Patients waiting in a public hospital in Hong Kong. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Local health authorities announced the scrapping of RAT requirements for public hospitals, elderly care homes and residential care homes for people with disabilities on Wednesday, saying the pandemic has continued to subside.

The government’s approach to handling the local epidemic situation has “entered into a new stage and new mode” in light of the “full resumption of normalcy” in society, a spokesperson for the health authorities said.

The city has recorded more than 2.8 million Covid-19 infections and more than 13,000 related deaths between early January 2020 and January 29 this year. It will now treat the disease as an upper respiratory tract infection, the government said.

“The lifting of the RAT requirement in public hospitals and RCHs [residential care homes] is in line with the latest epidemic development and risk management principle, on par with the measures for managing other upper respiratory tract illnesses,” a statement said.

Covid-19 rapid antigen test RAT
Covid-19 rapid antigen test cassettes. File photo: Pexels.

The government eased testing requirements for public hospitals and care homes on March 1, with visitors no longer required to obtain a negative Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction test result within 24 hours before their visit.

The Hospital Authority also announced longer visiting hours, with some wards being open to visitors for more than two hours a day, a limit set during the pandemic.

Although the city dropped its mask mandate on March 1 after more than 2.5 years, the government reminded visitors to and employees of public hospitals and residential care homes to keep wearing a mask to protect targeted groups.

People should maintain personal hygiene and keep the environment clear, health authorities said, adding those with symptoms should not visit the premises.

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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.