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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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Hong Kong to Change COVID Policy for Travelers

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Travelers in the arrive at Hong Kong International Airport on Aug. 8, 2022. | Image by Bertha Wang/Bloomberg

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Incoming travelers to China who test positive for COVID-19 will now be allowed to stay in their designated quarantine hotels rather than being transferred to isolation hotels or community facilities as they had been in the past.

“The arrangement will save confirmed cases from traveling and enable better utilization of manpower and vehicles originally deployed for transporting confirmed cases while reducing the transmission risk during the transportation process,” the Chinese government said in a statement, Bloomberg reported.

Every day, between 100 and 300 visitors to Hong Kong test positive for COVID-19, despite a policy that requires them to have a negative result before coming.

While many are transferred to a basic quarantine hotel for another week, others are isolated at the makeshift government-run camp known as Penny’s Bay. Even after it reduced hotel quarantine times for all incoming travelers from seven to three days, the risk has made people fearful of visiting one of the world’s wealthiest cities, NBC News reported.

The change will not reduce the time infected travelers must isolate themselves before being released into the community; it will only allow them to stay in a hotel rather than a government-run facility.

Those who test positive can be released from quarantine hotels only if they submit a negative test on both the sixth and seventh days of isolation, according to a Health Bureau spokesperson.

Travelers who remain in quarantine hotels rather than switch to government isolation facilities must pay for the entire stay on their own.

The new arrangement, which will begin on November 1, comes as Hong Kong prepares for a series of high-profile events after more than two years of isolation, including a summit for global bankers and an international rugby tournament.

Some prospective visitors have stated that they will not attend if they are subjected to quarantine facilities, Bloomberg reported.

Chinese officials and medical experts have not decided whether to shorten hotel quarantine times further. They will make a decision based on the COVID-19 situation closer to the high-stakes events, according to Bloomberg.

The city also lifted flight suspensions that imposed sudden bans on routes that brought in too many people infected with COVID-19, reduced the length of hotel quarantine, and ended temperature screening for transit passengers, which previously resulted in some being sent to government-managed virus facilities.

Residents who become infected have been allowed to stay at home since an outbreak swept through the city this spring, as long as they have enough space to isolate themselves.

While new arrivals are subject to stricter isolation rules than those infected locally, they account for only a fraction of the city’s total daily caseload as omicron subvariants drive another outbreak.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong reported over 7,000 local infections, compared to only 161 from elsewhere.

It is unclear how the 62 hotels that currently provide quarantine services will react to the new plan, which requires them to adjust to having infected guests in their facilities for extended periods. According to the government, they must set aside specific floors or rooms for isolation, install air purifiers, and ensure that their employees are wearing appropriate protective gear.     

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