Hong Kong says it will scrap COVID hotel quarantine

Hong Kong said it would lift its controversial COVID-19 hotel quarantine policy for all arrivals from Monday, more than 2.5 years after it was first implemented, in a long-awaited move for many residents and businesses in the financial hub.

All international arrivals can return home or accommodation of their choice, but must self-monitor for three days after entering China’s Special Administrative Center.

They are allowed to go to work or school, but are not allowed to enter bars or restaurants during this time. A pre-flight PCR test, which was required for Hong Kong travelers 48 hours before the flight, will be replaced with a rapid antigen test.

The former British colony is a global outlier outside of mainland China when it comes to imposing hotel quarantines on international arrivals in line with the country’s “dynamic zero” COVID strategy.

Business groups, diplomats and many residents have criticized the city’s COVID-19 rules, saying they threaten Hong Kong’s competitiveness and standing as a global financial hub.

All international arrivals currently spend three days in a self-paid hotel, followed by four days of self-regulation during which they are allowed to move around the city. Hotel quarantine lasted up to three weeks before being gradually eased earlier this year.

The rules have weighed on Hong Kong’s economy since early 2020, fueling an exodus of both expats and local families. According to the government, around 113,000 people have left since mid-2021.

Numerous flights to and from Hong Kong, which used to be one of the busiest and most efficient airports in the world, have been grounded.

The city has lost its position as a global aviation hub due to China’s zero-COVID policy, the head of airline group IATA said this week.

Numerous events have been canceled or postponed, although Hong Kong plans to host a major financial conference and the international rugby sevens in November.

Bankers said quarantine-free travel is a requirement for attending the conference.

Both events were widely seen as an attempt to show Hong Kong can resume business as usual.

Rival financial hub Singapore is hosting a series of high-profile conferences this month that have seen a boom for hotels and restaurants, while Taiwan and Japan this week announced easing of COVID-19 restrictions on international travelers, due to come into effect in October.

Hong Kong has reported more than 1.7 million COVID infections and 9,934 deaths since the pandemic began.

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