Hong Kong to shorten quarantine for low-risk countries


Hong Kong will cut mandatory hotel quarantine to 14 days from 21 for people coming from low-risk areas including Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, as the city works to reopen its pandemic-battered economy.

People coming from medium-risk areas and who have been vaccinated will also only be asked to quarantine for 14 days, officials said at a briefing Monday. An additional seven days of self-observation will be required for both groups.

Hong Kong will resume discussions over travel bubbles with several countries including Singapore, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said. Singapore said it has received a proposal from Hong Kong about re-opening borders for travel and will respond shortly.

Hong Kong is trying to raise its dismal vaccination rate by using travel incentives to convince a skeptical public to get inoculated, crucial to being able to fully reopen its economy. The vaccine drive has been hampered by public distrust in both the Beijing-backed government and Chinese-made vaccines, and suffered a further blow last week when the city temporarily halted the use of shots developed by BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc. after finding packaging defects in a small number of vials.

Easing Up

Officials also said Hong Kong will allow swimming pools and public beaches to reopen from Thursday and relax some other Covid-19 related social distancing rules, after bringing a recent outbreak involving the business and expatriate community largely under control.

Capacity at movie theaters and theme parks will be increased to 75%, officials said at a briefing on Monday. Authorities will also propose easing curbs on religious gatherings, they said. Bars and karaoke venues will remain closed.

The Asian financial hub has seen Covid cases fade over the past week, after tamping down the outbreak through measures including cordoning off certain residential buildings, ordering employees at dozens of workplaces to take compulsory tests and sending hundreds of people — including children — into government quarantine facilities.

Hong Kong’s virus-related measures are some of the toughest in the world. The city loosened some restrictions in February, opening venues including sports centers, beauty parlors, theme parks and cinemas — its first easing in nearly three months.

Despite being one of the world’s densest cities — and home to some 7.5 million people — Hong Kong has had a relatively low number of coronavirus infections compared to hot spots around the world, and saw early success containing Covid-19 last year.