Here are Hong Kong’s remaining Covid restrictions

Travellers arrive at Hong Kong International Airport before making their way to hotel quarantine on Sept 23, 2022. (AFP photo)

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee announced an end to hotel quarantine and pre-flight laboratory tests for travellers from Sept 26, the most significant step towards reopening since the pandemic began.

But a word to aspiring visitors: beware. The Asian financial hub remains very different from other cities, most of which have scrapped nearly all Covid-19 restrictions and are living with the virus. That includes regional rival Singapore. 

Here’s a list of lingering measures that might affect decisions on whether to make a trip to Hong Kong, even after the new rules take effect. The situation is subject to change as the current Covid wave continues to ebb and the city edges even further towards more aggressive reopening. 

Proof of vaccination

For non-residents, Hong Kong allows only vaccinated travellers from outside of China, except those with a medical reason explaining why they can’t be immunised. The other exception is for young children accompanying a qualified person.

In contrast, Singapore accepts unvaccinated travellers, so long as they can show a negative pre-flight Covid test and have Covid-related travel insurance. In other global hubs like the UK, officials no longer ask for vaccination records. 

Travel testing 

Travellers to Hong Kong no longer have to bring proof of a negative PCR test performed no more than 48 hours prior to their departure flight, with a rapid test now sufficing. The number of tests will ratchet up to about a dozen after landing, however. A daily rapid test is required for the first week, with PCR laboratory tests done on arrival and on days two, four and six. 

The change marks a relaxation in inconvenience and expense, as PCR tests are free in Hong Kong. After arrival at Hong Kong International Airport, travellers can head out to their chosen venue -- either a residence or a hotel room -- to serve their three day self-monitoring period.

Singapore allows vaccinated travellers to enter without any testing or quarantine. 

Health code

Travellers to Hong Kong will receive an amber code in the LeaveHomeSafe app on their mobile phone to mark their status as a new arrival undergoing the self-monitoring process. 

The tiered health-code system gives the general public a blue QR code that allows them to enter all premises, while those infected with Covid have a red QR code that forbids them leaving their homes. 

The amber code for travellers sits somewhere in between: they are allowed to go to work and school, to shop for groceries and to buy takeaway food. However, they won’t be allowed to visit restaurants and bars where masks are removed. 

Their amber code will switch to blue on the third day after arrival, providing they continue to test negative, marking the end of the monitoring process.  

Testing positive 

Travellers who test positive won’t be sent to notorious government-run isolation facilities like Penny’s Bay. If they are found to be infected, they can continue to stay in their hotel, but at their own expense. If they test negative on both day 6 and day 7, they can exit isolation. 

In Singapore, if you test positive for Covid, you can resume normal activities as soon as 72 hours, upon getting one negative rapid test. 

Vaccine passport

Most indoor venues, from restaurants and gyms to beauty parlors and club houses in Hong Kong actively check for a vaccine passport before you can get in. The city will extend such vaccine passports to kids as young as five from Sept 30. In addition, to visit bars, clubs and banquets, all guests need to show a negative rapid test taken within 24 hours. 

Singapore largely scrapped its vaccine pass in April, while European nations, which pioneered the mechanism to boost inoculation rates last year, have also mostly ditched the mandate.  

Mask wearing 

Hong Kong has a mask mandate in most public areas, indoors and outdoors. One has to wear a mask except for when they are engaged in physical exercises, eating or when they are in country parks. Violations can bring a fine of HK$5,000 (24,000 baht).

Singapore lifted its indoor mask-wearing mandate in August, except for certain venues like healthcare facilities and public transportation.  

Gathering limits

In public places, group gatherings of more than four people are banned in Hong Kong. The maximum number of people per dining table is eight, and banquets can’t go beyond 120 people. 

Singapore has no such limits. 

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