Hong Kong to end quarantine after outcry from firms, residents

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The decision to lift travel restrictions comes amid fears that the former British colony is losing its competitive edge.

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Hong Kong will lift its controversial travel quarantine from next week, bowing to mounting pressure to end more than two and a half years of lockdown that has hit the economy and squeezed talent out of the financial hub.

Chinese territory to resume quarantine-free entry from Monday, This was stated by the head of Hong Kong John Lee at a press conference on Friday.

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“We have to connect with the rest of the world so that we have an economic momentum,” Li said, while insisting that the city should not “lay idle” in front of the coronavirus.

Travelers to the city are currently required to undergo a three-day hotel quarantine followed by four days of medical supervision during which they are prohibited from entering certain places, including bars and restaurants.

Under the new arrangements, arrivals will still be required to undergo three days of medical supervision, which will be lifted after testing negative for COVID, dampening prospects for a sharp recovery in tourism. Travelers will also be required to take a COVID-19 PCR test upon landing, followed by three more tests within a few days of arrival.

The announcement comes after months of warnings from businesses and residents that the former British colony, which calls itself “Asia’s world city”, is losing its competitive edge over regional rivals like Singapore.

The pandemic-related restrictions, along with a Beijing-led crackdown on dissent, are blamed for the ongoing exodus that has seen more than 200,000 people leave since 2020.

Hong Kong, stuck between mainland China’s ultra-strict “COVID zero” strategy and calls to restore international travel, is one of the latest countries to lift pandemic-related lockdowns.

Taiwan on Thursday announced it would lift quarantine for arrivals by mid-October, while Japan opened the door for mass tourism to resume with the return of visa-free entry and the lifting of restrictions on daily arrivals from next month.

Gary Ng, senior economist at investment bank Natixis, said Hong Kong’s announcement was a “grossly overdue step” in restoring the city’s competitiveness but didn’t go far enough.

“This move will help the aviation sector in outbound tourism and business travel, which is a welcome and positive step for the people of Hong Kong,” Ng told Al Jazeera.

“However, this will not be enough to get the economy back on track, as it is still far from fully reopening to attract incoming visitors. There are still too many other restrictions. No one wants to come to a city with an ongoing mandatory COVID test, a mandatory mask requirement, and a health code system for tourism.”

Credit: www.aljazeera.com /

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