It’s an exciting week for travel! Not only is Japan reopening its borders on a widespread basis, but Hong Kong is also eliminating quarantine for travelers. However, Hong Kong needs to go a bit further if it wants to see any real number of tourists…
Hong Kong eliminates hotel quarantine
Hong Kong will be ending its hotel quarantine policy for travelers as of September 26, 2022. Most recently, Hong Kong required a three day hotel quarantine for inbound international travelers, though in the past the quarantine has been as long as 21 days.
Unfortunately don’t expect you’ll be able to enter Hong Kong as you did pre-pandemic, as there are still significant restrictions:
- Travelers will need to be fully vaccinated, and as of November 30, 2022, will need to be boosted as well
- A rapid antigen or PCR test will be required prior to travel
- A PCR test will be administered upon arrival, though you won’t need to wait for the result before entering Hong Kong
- Additional PCR tests will be required on days two, four, and six, in Hong Kong; if you ever test positive, you’ll need to quarantine
- Once in Hong Kong, travelers will need to undergo three days of medical surveillance, and during that time they can’t visit bars, restaurants, fitness clubs, etc.
Hong Kong has taken strict coronavirus measures since the start of the pandemic, though has had some major outbreaks. At this point it’s hard to say that Hong Kong is pursuing a zero coronavirus strategy, as we’re seeing thousands of cases per day on an ongoing basis.
Hong Kong has been making some positive changes in recent months when it comes to travel restrictions, from ending flight bans, to ending bans on transit passengers, to allowing visitors (with quarantine). Back in July, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Health, Lo Chung-mau, hinted that an arrangement like this could be coming:
“Is nothing required any more? I think that would be a bit tough. At least PCR testing is needed. But does quarantine have to be confined to a fixed location? Could it be medical surveillance, plus a yellow code and not appearing in a bar for the first few days? I won’t rule that out. I very much hope to achieve that as well because I like to travel too.”
This is a step in the right direction, but not enough
It’s certainly a step in the right direction that it will now be possible to visit Hong Kong without quarantine. This will probably come in handy for those who have close friends or relatives in Hong Kong, and haven’t seen them in a long time. Furthermore, this could be useful for those conducting important business.
However, this policy is most definitely not going to attract the casual traveler. Pre-travel testing, up to four tests on arrival, and not being able to attend many venues for three days, will be a deal-breaker for most.
At this point even the countries that initially took among the strictest approaches to managing coronavirus have moved on to the “it’s time to live with the virus” phase of the pandemic. Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore, have all overwhelmingly eliminated travel restrictions, despite initially closing borders for extended periods of time.
Hong Kong is in an odd position at this point. It seems pretty clear that Hong Kong won’t be able to get back to having daily cases in the single or double (or even triple) digits, yet policies are created as if that’s the case. I’m curious to see how Hong Kong’s approach is adjusted over the coming months. Is this just a temporary solution, and will Hong Kong eventually just rip the band-aid off and fully reopen, or what?
Hong Kong has announced a plan to reopen with quarantine-free travel, which is an exciting development. However, don’t expect that this will attract many visitors, as Hong Kong will still require pre-travel testing, up to four tests on arrival, and a surveillance period of three days.
It’s a step in the right direction, but not enough, in my opinion.
What do you make of Hong Kong eliminating quarantine?