On March 21, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, announced that the HK Government will lift the flight ban on nine countries and cut the hotel quarantine period for arrivals from April 1, 2022.
Currently, to contain the COVID-19 surge, passenger aircrafts from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the UK, the USA, and Nepal are not allowed to land in Hong Kong, under the place-specific flight suspension mechanism.
In a move to prevent imported COVID-19 cases from placing additional pressure on the city’s healthcare system, the Hong Kong government has implemented the so-called place-specific flight suspension mechanism, or flight ban, on nine countries.
The flight ban on eight of the nine countries, including Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the UK, and the US started on January 8, 2022 and was set to expire on February 18, 2022. It was extended twice on February 11, 2022 and February 23, 2022 – to be implemented until April 20, 2022.
On the other hand, the flight ban on Nepal started on February 12, 2022 and was set to expire on March 4, 2022. It was extended on February 23, 2022 – to be implemented until April 20, 2022, as well.
Under the flight ban, people who have stayed in these nine countries for more than two hours within the last 14 days are prohibited from boarding passenger flights for Hong Kong. This measure stops not only people who live in the nine countries from travelling to Hong Kong, but also affects people who want to travel to Hong Kong by transiting in any of the nine countries.
Hong Kong’s Flight Ban on Nine Countries
The flight ban will be lifted on April 1, 2022, which is 20 days earlier than the original finish date that was set.
Although Hong Kong decided to lift the strict flight ban, it does not mean everyone can travel to Hong Kong without limitations.
As announced by Lam, only Hong Kong residents who are fully vaccinated can board a flight for Hong Kong. They must hold a negative result of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based nucleic acid test taken within 48 hours before boarding and a confirmation of a room reservation at a designated quarantine hotel (DQH) for at least seven nights.
That is to say, only travelers satisfying the below conditions can benefit from the lift of the flight ban:
Upon arrival, the travelers are required to do a rapid PCR test. Upon testing negative, they will be issued with a 14-day quarantine order and transported to the DQH.
During the quarantine period, daily rapid antigen tests (RATs) will be conducted and a PCR-based nucleic acid test will be done on days five and 12.
If the results on the day five PCR test and days six and seven RATs are all negative, they may opt for an early discharge from the DQH, then undergo a seven-day self-monitoring and receive the aforementioned PCR test on day 12 at a community testing center.
Alternatively, if they choose to stay in the DQH throughout the 14-day quarantine period, a PCR test will be conducted in the DQH on day 12. After getting a negative result, they can leave the DQH on day 14.
If the travelers have tested positive in any of these virus tests after arriving in Hong Kong, they will be issued with an isolation order and transferred to a community isolation hotel. The isolation and discharge requirements will be the same as for local COVID-19 patients.
Lifting the flight ban – albeit with clearly stipulated conditions attached – comes at a time when Hong Kong is shifting its COVID-19 strategy. Instead of curbing the COVID-19 outbreak by stringent quarantines and mass testing, the Hong Kong government has decided to prioritize expanding vaccinations for elderly people living at care facilities and increasing the number of hospital beds to treat patients.
Lam said the flight ban is out of time and causing distress to Hong Kong people stranded overseas. Moreover, the more stringent quarantine requirements imposed on arrivals have also affected the city’s business environment.
In its most recent Budget 2022-23, Hong Kong promised to render support to the struggling economy and foster post-epidemic economic revival with no efforts spared.
The lift of the flight ban on nine countries is definitely welcomed by potential travelers who have to visit Hong Kong for all kinds of purposes. According to SCMP, online searches on Expedia for flights to Hong Kong surged 285 percent in the 48 hours since March 21, 2022, when the Hong Kong government announced that it will lift the flight ban.
However, there are comments saying that traveling to Hong Kong will not get much easier even after the ban is lifted. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. plans to operate just one inbound flight every two weeks for fear it will be subjected to the city’s 14-day ban on airlines that carry too many passengers infected with COVID-19.
After all, the number of COVID-19 cases is still high in Hong Kong and it is hard to expect much improvement in inbound traffic for the city for now.
For more information, you may reach our Hong Kong office at email@example.com
China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done so since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dezan Shira & Associates has offices in Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, United States, Germany, Italy, India, and Russia, in addition to our trade research facilities along the Belt & Road Initiative. We also have partner firms assisting foreign investors in The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh.
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