Hong Kong welcomeD its first overseas visitors in more than two years today, BUT THEY’LL BE FORCED TO QUARANTINE FOR SEVEN DAYS.
The first international visitors in more than two years can enter Hong Kong from today (May 1), but faced with the prospect of seven days in mandatory quarantine, the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ could remain a distant dream for many travellers.
Overseas travellers have been completely banned from the Special Administrative Region (SAR) since March 25, 2020, when the government put major travel restrictions in place as COVID-19 spread around the world.
Only Hong Kong citizens and residents have been allowed to enter over the past two years.
From today though, arriving passengers who are fully vaccinated, who have had a negative COVID-19 test result before departure and on arrival, and who have booked a designated quarantine hotel (DQN), will be allowed to enter Hong Hong.
They’ll also be forced to quarantine for seven days. Although that’s shorter than the three week quarantine period previously in place for residents, it’s still a costly move that is likely to deter many would-be holidaymakers and business people.
Although it’s a step in the right direction, Hong Kong – which prides itself as the East-meets-West gateway – still lags other countries like Singapore, Thailand, Japan and Australia, which now welcome vaccinated travellers with virtually no restrictions.
The relaxation of measures before Hong Kong has reached zero Covid-19 cases marks a shift from the city’s earlier strategy, which was aligned to mainland China’s zero-tolerance for any outbreaks.
Hong Kong’s popular theme parks – including Ocean Park and Disneyland Hong Kong – were ordered to close in January as Hong Kong’s fifth wave of the coronavirus took hold.
Restaurants were restricted to selling food for takeaway or delivery after 6pm, and to seating two customers per table before 6pm. From high-end to mass market, no restaurants were spared.
Nearly 1.2 million people in the city of 7.4 million were infected in less than four months, and nearly 9,000 have died.
Temporarily closed venues started to reopen on April 21, including theme parks, cinemas, museums and restaurants.
Now the city’s worst Covid 19 outbreaks appear to be fading, theme parks are allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity although visitors must show proof of vaccination. Dine-in services at restaurants have been extended to 10pm, although bars remain closed.
The Hong Kong government plans to adjust restrictions and conditions progressively until September 30.
The easing of travel restrictions will be welcome news for Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific, which racked up combined losses of HK$27.2 billion ($3.4 billion) in 2020 and 2021.
YOU MUST WEAR A MASK 😷
Visitors and residents must wear masks at all times in Hong Kong, including when exercising in parks or shopping indoors or out. Mandatory mask-wearing is also required in terminals, on public transport and in most indoor and outdoor public places. Eating and drinking is now banned on public transport. Those caught breaching the tough mask-wearing regulations face a maximum fine of $10,000.
© 2022 BERNARD O’RIORDAN (TRAVEL INSTINCT). ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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