Hong Kong on Thursday shortened the mandatory quarantine for international travellers from three weeks to two, even as the city struggles to contain virus outbreaks involving Omicron and Delta variants.
The Chinese city is one of the few places left in the world still pursuing a “zero-Covid” strategy that has largely kept the virus at bay but left the finance hub internationally isolated.
The emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant saw the city increase its travel restrictions in December – slamming borders shut to arrivals from eight countries and banning transit passengers from more than 150 destinations.
But Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Thursday that from February 5 the three-week mandatory quarantine period for all arrivals – among the longest isolation measures in the world – will be reduced to two weeks.
“All arrivals to Hong Kong will undergo 14 days mandatory quarantine in designated hotels and seven days of self-monitoring at home,” she said.
Arrivals will be able to leave their homes during the final days but are required to take a Covid-19 test at least twice, she added.
Social Distancing Extended
However, social distancing measures across the city – like the closing of bars and clubs and a ban on restaurant dining after 6pm – will be extended until at least February 18, while schools will still be suspended.
The ban on arrivals from eight countries – Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Philippines, UK and US – will also continue until February 18.
The extension come as Hong Kong prepares for the Lunar New Year, a usually raucous affair during which boisterous street fairs see lion dance performances and families gather for meals.
“But considering the dire Covid-19 situation, I have to appeal to all residents to stay at home, reduce cross-family gatherings and join hands to fight the virus,” Lam said.
Hong Kong on Thursday recorded 164 confirmed infections – the highest daily figure since the pandemic began – though only 116 were local cases.
- AFP, with additional editing by George Russell
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