Hong Kong cuts hotel quarantine to 3 days as city’s image slumps

The announcement comes amid growing frustration over the isolation of the international financial center as the world lives with Covid.

Hong Kong will cut hotel quarantine from seven days to three days as businesses and residents in the international financial hub grow increasingly frustrated by one of the world’s strictest border regimes.

Under the simplified measures, travelers will be required to spend three days in hotel quarantine instead of seven, after which they will be placed under “home medical surveillance” for four days.

During the surveillance period, arrivals will not be allowed to enter places such as bars and restaurants that are required to adopt the new two-color health code used in mainland China.

The easing measures will come into effect from Friday.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee, who since taking office last month has pledged to prioritize reconnecting the city to mainland China and the world, said the government wanted to minimize the impact of the quarantine on the economy and travel.

“We must strike a balance between people’s quality of life and Hong Kong’s competitiveness to maximize the momentum and economic vitality of the community,” Lee said at a press conference on Monday.

Long branded as “Asia’s World City,” Hong Kong has become one of the most isolated metropolises on Earth after two and a half years of strict border controls designed to align it with mainland China.

Epidemic policies have warned of an exodus of residents and a brain drain in the semi-autonomous Chinese region, along with a massive crackdown on dissent that severely curtails rights and freedoms in the former British colony.

More than 120,000 people left in 2020 and 2021, with thousands more expected to follow this year.

In a survey conducted last year by the American Chamber of Commerce of Hong Kong, more than 40 percent of expatriate residents said they were planning or considering leaving.

Even as the rest of the world transitions to living with the virus, the Hong Kong government has set no timetable for a permanent exit from border controls.

Travel to the city continues to be difficult and expensive despite the latest easing of restrictions, as travelers struggle for space in a limited number of quarantined hotels and risk being stranded if they test positive for COVID-19 before their flight. .

Gary Ng, senior economist at Natixis in Hong Kong, said that while positive, the easing of quarantines has left the city behind the rest of the world.

“The optimistic scenario is that Hong Kong’s air passengers could reach 8 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022, but that is not enough,” Ng told Al Jazeera.

“For the betterment of the economy, Hong Kong’s leadership needs to look beyond Covid and not introduce additional barriers such as the health code.”

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