Hong Kong lifted its ban on flights from a number of countries and reduced the mandatory quarantine requirement for travelers, citing a significant decline in confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The island city’s chief executive Carrie Lam announced the change during a press conference on March 21. Lam cited concerns for the long-term impact on the city’s economy if the regulations remain in place.
“Hong Kong’s isolation requirements for inbound travelers … could in turn adversely [affect] the local business environment, especially when the rest of the world has been moving towards relaxing [policies],” Lam said to the press. “There is a need for the economy to move forward.”
Hong Kong implemented a series of strict COVID-19 regulations in the wake of the global pandemic. The government restricted flights as a preventative measure in January.
Over the last three weeks, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has declined by 12,000, an approximately 28% decrease from its infection rate’s most recent peak, per Reuters COVID-19 Tracker. There were just over 4,500 cases reported on March 21. The city also reports that 93.8% of its population is fully vaccinated.
Flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Britain, the United States and the Philippines will be permitted to resume on April 1.
Fully vaccinated travelers will no longer need to quarantine for 14 days. Instead, the mandatory quarantine period for travelers entering the country is now seven days if the traveler tested negative for COVID-19 on the sixth or seventh day.
Travelers will still stay in designated hotels and will be asked to come to the Hong Kong International Airport for their PCR tests.
The government will also no longer hold a citywide mass-testing exercise as previously planned. Residents will be required to get a booster shot by May 31 to enter public places, including supermarkets and shopping malls.
“The experts are of the opinion that it’s not appropriate for us to devote finite resources to the universal mass-testing,” said Lam. “The SAR government will continue to monitor the situation. When the conditions are right, we will consider whether we will be implementing the compulsory universal testing.”
Hong Kong currently requires masks to be worn everywhere outside the home.
Additional COVID-19 policy changes include allowing restaurants to continue serving customers after 6 P.M. and increasing the number of diners permitted at a table from two to four on April 21.
Later, the city will end restrictions on nightclubs, bars, and beaches as well as permit maskless outdoor exercise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labels Hong Kong’s COVID-19 levels as “very high” and recommends any travelers are fully vaccinated before entering the country.
Airline passengers must also show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 24 hours in advance.