Hong Kong eases entry for vaccinated residents, tourists

Hong Kong eases entry for vaccinated residents, tourists

Passengers wearing protective suits (PPE) line up to board their plane for an international flight at Hong Kong airport amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), July 9, 2021. (Reuters file photo)
Passengers wearing protective suits (PPE) line up to board their plane for an international flight at Hong Kong airport amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), July 9, 2021. (Reuters file photo)

Hong Kong will allow vaccinated tourists from all but 10 places in the world to enter the city starting on Aug 9, a significant easing of some of the tightest border curbs in the world.

Vaccinated visitors from countries now considered “medium-risk” -- which includes the US and Canada -- will be able to enter the city for the first time since the pandemic started. Meanwhile, Hong Kong residents from previously banned places like the UK and India can now return home.

Visitors and residents from medium-risk countries must spend seven days in hotel quarantine after they arrive. They will also be required to have a positive antibody test from a laboratory recognised by the Hong Kong government to prove they were vaccinated against Covid-19. Antibody testing facilities at the airport will be available starting in mid-August, according to a government statement.

Children Included

The easing, first announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Monday without detail, also allows children who aren’t eligible for vaccination to leave hotel quarantine with their inoculated parents after seven days -- though they must then self-isolate at home for another two weeks.

The revived plan, first proposed in June, comes as Hong Kong tries to reopen its economy after nearly two months without local transmission, while keeping out the highly contagious delta strain that’s driving new outbreaks around the world. The move was welcomed by local business leaders.

”This is a very positive step to help Hong Kong get back to the crucial connectivity it needs as an international business centre, while remaining vigilant about Covid-19,” said Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

Though low vaccination levels locally means that delta slipping into the city could quickly become catastrophic, the financial hub is also facing pressure from businesses to relax what are some of the most onerous travel curbs in the world. Rival hub Singapore has said it will ease travel curbs in September after an inoculation rate of 80% is achieved there.

High-Risk

The easing leaves only 10 places in the world, including the UK, India and Brazil, where non-residents remain banned. For these “high-risk” places, only fully inoculated residents can return and they must serve a hotel quarantine period of 21 days.

The Hong Kong government also dialled up the pressure on the local population to get vaccinated, saying that only schools which achieve a 70% vaccination level among students in the grade can fully resume in-person teaching in September. Teachers must also get inoculated or go for regular testing at their own expense, officials said Monday.

Hong Kong has fully vaccinated 2.5 million people -- about 33% of its population. That’s compared to 61% of residents who had completed vaccination in Singapore, 48% in London and 54% in New York City.

Vaccine bookings jumped on Monday after officials announced the easing, with the number of people reserving slots to get the Sinovac Biotech Ltd shot growing to 6,600 on Monday from 4,200 on Sunday and those for the BioNTech SE vaccine rising to 41,600 from 23,100 a day ago.

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