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Hong Kong considers shorter COVID quarantine for travelers – Lee

By KikiLo

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong will consider reducing COVID-19 quarantine requirements for travelers while aiming to stem the spread of the virus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, the city’s new leader John Lee said on Tuesday.

Lee was speaking at his first weekly press conference as the city’s chief executive after being sworn in by China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday following celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule.

China is the only one among major countries that is pursuing a “zero COVID” strategy that aims to stamp out all outbreaks at all costs.

“I’m aware that Hong Kong needs to remain open and convenient for travelers, but it’s also important that we address the risks at the same time,” Lee told reporters.

He added that he had instructed Health Minister Lo Chung-mau to consider shortening the mandatory quarantine for travelers, but gave no further details.

“I’m giving him time to look at the stats so he can formulate some options that we might consider,” Lee said.

Hong Kong, which has some of the world’s toughest travel restrictions outside of mainland China, has reported daily case counts of around 2,000 infections for the past week without tightening rules. Such numbers would lead to very strict restrictions on daily activities in every mainland city.

The city still imposes a seven-day hotel quarantine on arrival at the traveler’s own expense and requires passengers boarding flights to Hong Kong to complete a set of forms and rigorous testing requirements.

Airlines face lockdowns if they take on too many passengers who test positive upon landing, leading to canceled flights and people struggling to rebook trips and hotels, and in some cases being stuck out of town for months.

Lo said Monday he hopes the border with Shenzhen will reopen before August 4.

The Asian financial hub, which has faced a major wave of COVID infections this year, has officially reported more than 1 million cases and more than 9,000 deaths – one of the world’s highest death tolls since the pandemic began.

Some epidemiologists estimate that more than 4 million people in the city of 7.4 million may have been infected. Health officials have said the city’s hospitals are not under any significant pressure as COVID cases rise again.

(Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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