Hong Kong eases airport Covid checks

Hong Kong eases airport Covid checks

Authorities respond to growing criticism from business leaders about impact on travel

Travellers heading to quarantine register in the arrivals hall at Hong Kong International Airport on Aug 8. (Bloomberg Photo)
Travellers heading to quarantine register in the arrivals hall at Hong Kong International Airport on Aug 8. (Bloomberg Photo)

Hong Kong will end temperature checks for some passengers at its international airport, and relax quarantine requirements for local air crews, after some of the city’s most prominent voices called for an end to virus-related travel restrictions.

Starting Saturday, transiting and outbound passengers at Hong Kong International Airport — except for those bound for China — will no longer be required to undergo temperature screening, the government said in a statement on Friday.

It comes a day after the US consulate in the city advised its citizens to avoid transiting through the airport because they faced the risk of being sent to a government quarantine facility if found positive for Covid-19.

Hong Kong is also relaxing its three-day hotel quarantine requirement for air crews, also effective from Sept 10. Under the new plan, locally based crews on overseas passenger flights will undergo a “test and hold” arrangement upon arrival, and may leave the airport after a negative Covid test, the government said.

Cathay Pacific Airways chief executive officer Augustus Tang welcomed the news and the “succession of developments” to relax travel restrictions in the past few months, according to a statement on Friday. “These changes allow us to add back more flights, to build momentum and to continue our recovery,” he said.

The loosening of Hong Kong’s Covid protocols follows comments by one of the city’s wealthiest property developers, Peter Woo, who made a rare call for the government to end inbound travel restrictions. The city is facing a resurgence in Covid infections, and the latest daily count stood at 10,076 cases, almost all of them very mild.

Hong Kong’s inbound travel policies have been among the strictest in the world. Visitors to the city are required to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine for three nights, while the rest of the world has largely scrapped such measures.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee has acknowledged the government is having internal conversations on whether to cut hotel quarantine ahead of a summit of global bankers and an international rugby competition in November.

The government also said on Friday that officials from Hong Kong and Shenzhen had held a virtual meeting to discuss a pre-departure quarantine plan for travellers to the mainland.

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