Hong Kong’s leader has announced that the city will lift flight bans on countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as reduce quarantine time for visitors, as coronavirus infections in the city’s latest outbreak reach a peak.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the changes on Monday, March 21 following a response from businesses and citizens who see the rest of the world transitioning to “living with the virus.”
She said that a prohibition on flights from nine countries — Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the United States — would be lifted on April 1.
Most of these countries have been subject to a flying ban since January, as authorities attempted to contain the highly contagious Omicron strain epidemic in Hong Kong.
Travelers entering the city can also be quarantined for seven days (down from 14 days) in quarantine hotels if they test negative for the virus on the sixth and seventh days of their quarantine.
Ms Lam also said that plans for a city-wide mass-testing exercise, which was first announced in February, would be suspended.
“The experts are of the opinion that it’s not appropriate for us to devote finite resources to the universal mass-testing.
“The SAR government will continue to monitor the situation. When the conditions are right, we will consider whether we will be implementing the compulsory universal testing.”Ms Lam said.
After two years of agreeing with mainland China’s “zero Covid” policy, the measures announced on Monday reflect a shift in Hong Kong’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as officials sought to give direction for Hong Kong enterprises and residents.
Ms Lam explained that the adjustments are part of an interim assessment of the city’s policies, and that the city’s many stakeholders will be consulted on any longer-term road maps for public health and economic development.