Hong Kong currently enforces some of the strictest quarantine measures in the world.
The Hong Kong government announced today that it will be maintaining flight ban restrictions for arrivals from the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil and Ireland.
The four countries have been classified as ‘extremely high-risk’ and were last month placed on Hong Kong’s ‘Group A’ list.
Travellers who have stayed in a Group A country for longer than two hours in the last 21 days are banned from boarding a flight to Hong Kong.
The government said it would be continuing this regulation “as the global epidemic situation of Covid-19 remains severe.”
Countries listed in high-risk Group B and medium-to-high risk Group C will continue to be required to isolate for 21 days in a designated quarantine hotel. Group B and C countries include the rest of the world apart from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan.
Controversially, even low-risk countries such as New Zealand have been included in Group C and are therefore subject to the mandatory three-week hotel quarantine despite recording negligible new Covid cases over the past few months.
The ban on arrivals from the UK was introduced on Christmas Day, effectively locking out many hundreds of Hong Kong residents. Some have since returned to Hong Kong via quarantine-free countries such as Dubai, Maldives and Egypt. Infections in the UK this week fell by just over 25% compared to the previous week. Thirteen million UK residents have now received a first dose of a vaccine.
A spokesperson said that the government “recognises that the measures in relation to group A specified places are very stringent, and maintaining the boarding restriction would inevitably affect the return journeys of a number of Hong Kong residents there. However, it is necessary for the government to extend the relevant arrangement so as to protect the health of the overall community in Hong Kong by firmly guarding against the importation of the new virus variants.”
It said global and local epidemic developments would be closely monitored and control restrictions for residents returning to Hong Kong would be adjusted as required.
As Hong Kong appears to be exiting a fourth wave of infections, the government also announced today that social distancing measures within the city will be relaxed after the Lunar New Year holiday.
From February 18, restaurants will be able to open until 10pm and seat up to four people at a table. Other facilities able to reopen include gyms, spas, beauty salons, indoor and outdoor sports venues, theme parks, museums, performance arts venues, cinemas, bowling alleys, ice-skating rinks and games arcades.
However, patrons must use the LeaveHomeSafe tracing app and all staff must be tested for Covid every 14 days.
Seventeen new infections were reported in the city today, including four with no known sources.
Unfortunately Hong Kong’s vaccination news was not as buoyant; the government vaccine advisory panel said it was waiting for additional data from Chinese drug manufacturer Sinovac before deciding whether to recommend its vaccine for use in Hong Kong.