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Quarantine let-ups for children as Hong Kong rejigs entrance requirements

Non-residents will be allowed to enter Hong Kong for the first time since 2020.

Hong Kong is to dump its current country classification system and recognise unvaccinated children in a rejig of its quarantine and entrance regulations.

According to a press briefing yesterday, the government is to reclassify countries from a five-tier system to a three-tier system starting from next Monday. And unvaccinated children from certain areas will be able to spend part of their quarantine period at home.

Hong Kong has recorded zero community Covid cases for 56 days and is adamant about maintaining its target of ‘zero local cases’. It says the adoption of these new measures is a “risk-based approach”. Overseas places have been recategorised “taking into account a basket of factors, including public health considerations (such as epidemic situation, testing rate, vaccination rate, volume of travellers and actual imported cases), as well as other socio-economic factors.”

Under the new system, countries currently listed as extremely high risk and very high risk (groups A1 and A2) will now be grouped as ‘high risk’ (group A). This will lead to the lifting of flight bans currently in place for countries such as Britain, India, Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Arrivals from group A countries, or travellers who have been in a group A country for more than two hours in the 21 days before departure, must be fully vaccinated Hong Kong residents and must complete a 21 day hotel quarantine along with four Covid-19 tests and a further seven-day period of self-monitoring after leaving quarantine, with a final test on day 26. Exemptions have been made for children under the age of 12, who are unable to receive a vaccination. As long as they are accompanied by parents who fulfil all of the group A arrival requirements, they will be permitted to enter Hong Kong. At present no recognition has been made of 12 to 18 year olds who have been unable to receive a vaccination.

And in a final hurdle, all vaccination certificates for group A arrivals must have been issued either in Hong Kong or from an institution recognised by the World Health Organisation. Currently only Britain and Ireland fulfil this criteria.

Countries categorised as high and medium risk (groups B and C) will be merged into a medium risk tier (group B). This will include most countries, including the likes of the United States, France, Germany and Japan. Non-Hong Kong residents will be allowed to enter from these countries as long as they are fully vaccinated with WHO recognised certification. Unvaccinated residents arriving from a group B country will be expected to quarantine for 21 days in a hotel and undergo four Covid-19 tests. However, vaccinated arrivals (including non-residents) can reduce their quarantine to 14 days, followed by seven days of self-monitoring and further testing on days 16 and 19 at community testing centres.

Furthermore, group B arrivals who are fully vaccinated and hold positive proof of a serology antibody test issued by a laboratory recognised by Hong Kong government within three months, can reduce their hotel quarantine to seven days. They will also have to undergo a further seven days of home monitoring and take tests on days nine, 12, 16 and 19 at a community testing centre.

Low risk countries in group D will now be recategorised as group C. If arrivals from these places are fully vaccinated, they will face a seven day quarantine with two tests, seven days of self-monitoring and further testing on days nine and 12. Unvaccinated arrivals from group D countries must undergo 14 days of quarantine.

Children will be subject to a quarantine of 21 days from group B countries and 14 days from group C countries, however they will be able to complete their quarantine at home at the end of their parents’ quarantine, as long as all household members have been vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated non-residents from group B and group C countries will be subject to the same entry restrictions as residents. Non-residents are prohibited from entering Hong Kong from group A countries, and unvaccinated non-residents from group B places are also unable to enter Hong Kong.

The government says it expects self-paid serology antibody testing to be available to incoming travellers at Hong Kong Airport from mid-August. More details are to follow.

All arrivals, regardless of where they are flying from, must undergo testing within 72 hours of departure and another test on arrival at Hong Kong Airport. And while flights to A1 countries will be restored, the flight-specific suspension mechanism, whereby individual airlines can be banned from landing in Hong Kong for two weeks if they bring in more than a set number of positive passengers or passengers holding incorrect documentation, will remain in place.

Constantly flip-flopping flight bans and changing entrance regulations have caused chaos for Hong Kongers returning home. London flights were banned for five months from December 2020, briefly reinstated in early summer 2021 and banned again in July, leaving many university and boarding school students unable to return home for the summer holidays. Strict entrance criteria have also proved problematic for airlines who must check all documentation before boarding or endure a two-week flight suspension for passengers holding incorrect paperwork. Both Qatar Airways and Lufthansa have been banned from flying passengers into the city in recent weeks.

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