HONG KONG (AP) — Travelers arriving in Hong Kong from China will no longer need to quarantine, Hong Kong’s top official said Tuesday, easing curbs imposed after summer outbreaks of the coronavirus on the mainland.
Starting Wednesday, people who haven’t been to medium- or high-risk areas on the mainland or Macao can enter the city, capped at 2,000 travelers daily, chief executive Carrie Lam said in a news conference. Travelers will still need a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival and must take several tests while in Hong Kong to ensure they’re not infected.
Hong Kong halted quarantine-free travel in early August and imposed a mandatory quarantine period of seven or 14 days, depending on the traveler’s vaccination status. Hong Kong’s “zero-COVID” strategy has seen authorities impose strict border restrictions and ban flights from extremely high-risk countries, in the hopes that no local community spread would allow it to reopen borders with mainland China.
Currently, China has strict border restrictions that allow only Chinese nationals or those with valid residence permits and visas to enter the country, and all travelers are required to quarantine at least 14 days. Since the beginning of the pandemic, most Hong Kongers haven’t been able to freely enter mainland China.
Restrictions will ease further next Wednesday, when mainland residents will be able to enter the city without quarantine via the Shenzhen Bay port and via the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge, capped at 1,000 visitors each, Lam said. These visitors will also need to test negative before traveling.
The changes, part of the “Come2HK” plan announced Wednesday, are expected to boost the city’s tourism industry, which took a beating during months of political strife in 2019 and pandemic-related border restrictions. Tourist numbers fell by as much as 99% in 2020 compared to pre-pandemic levels.