Hong Kong eases international arrival rules

Hong Kong eases international arrival rules

Non-residents from all countries can enter from May 1, with antigen test and 7-day quarantine

Healthcare workers prepare to assist travellers heading to quarantine in the arrival hall at Hong Kong International Airport on April 1. (Bloomberg Photo)
Healthcare workers prepare to assist travellers heading to quarantine in the arrival hall at Hong Kong International Airport on April 1. (Bloomberg Photo)

Hong Kong will allow arrivals of all non-residents from overseas starting next month — albeit with a quarantine requirement — in a sign that it is taking some steps to ease the world’s strictest pandemic travel rules.

Under the new rules, arrivals must take a Covid antigen test at the airport, and those who are negative can head to a designated quarantine hotel for seven days.

The territory is also easing rules for halting a flight route, saying a suspension will come into effect if five passengers test positive on arrival, up from three under the previous rules.

The government said it was aware of opinions that the old approach had been “too harsh, leading to suspensions of different routes and easily disrupting the itineraries of people coming back to Hong Kong”.

The Hong Kong government earlier lifted suspensions on flights from nine overseas locations on April 1. Since then, average daily arrivals have risen to about 1,200 from 300, it said in an update on the new rules, posted on its Covid website.

Airlines and travellers have been frustrated by the flight suspension rules, which could lead to any route getting halted. More than 10 routes are now suspended, including ones flown by Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Qatar Airways. Some carriers, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic  are not taking bookings for flights there until later in the year.

The ban on non-residents has been in place since March 2020, though it was briefly lifted for travellers from certain places. Decisions on broader easing will likely be left to Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s successor John Lee when he takes over in July after an uncontested election, a person familiar with the plan told Bloomberg News.

Hong Kong’s strict travel rules stand in stark contrast to other places around the world, which have decided to live with Covid-19. That includes Singapore, which on Friday scrapped all testing for incoming vaccinated visitors and limits on gathering sizes.

Other moves effective from Tuesday in Singapore include allowing all workers to return to the workplace and doing away with checking people’s vaccination statuses at most places, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health.

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