Hong Kong to stop moving travellers with Covid to quarantine camp

Published Wed, Sep 14, 2022 · 11:41 AM

HONG KONG will allow incoming travellers who test positive for Covid-19 to remain in their designated quarantine hotels instead of being transferred to isolation hotels or community facilities like the infamous Penny’s Bay.

The move, which will begin Nov 1, comes as Hong Kong prepares for a series of high-profile events including a summit for global bankers and an international rugby tournament that could help revive its reputation after more than 2 years of isolation. Some potential visitors have said they won’t attend if there is a chance they could get sent to quarantine facilities.

Between 100 and 300 travellers to Hong Kong test positive for Covid every day, 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 sent to the makeshift government-run camp known as Penny’s Bay to isolate. The risk has made people dread arriving in one of the world’s richest cities, even after it cut hotel quarantine times from 7 days to 3.

The change is the latest in a series of measures to ease travel rules that have been implemented by Chief Executive John Lee since he was sworn into office on Jul 1. The city removed flight suspensions that imposed snap bans on routes that brought in too many people with Covid, cut the length of hotel quarantine and ended temperature screening for transit passengers that could have led some to government-managed virus facilities.

The city hasn’t decided whether to further cut quarantine times for new arrivals and will make the call based on the Covid situation closer to the high-stake summits, Lee said this week. Residents who become infected have been allowed to remain at home since an outbreak slammed the city this spring, provided they had room to isolate.

While new arrivals have stricter isolation rules than those infected locally, they account for a fraction of the city’s total daily case load as Omicron subvariants drive another outbreak. Hong Kong reported more than 7,000 local infections on Tuesday (Sep 13), compared with just 151 coming from abroad.

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While 62 hotels currently offer quarantine services, it’s unclear how they will respond to the new plan. It requires them to adjust to having infected guests remain at their facilities for extended periods. They must arrange specific floors for isolation purposes and ensure their workers are properly garbed, the government said in a statement.

The new approach should better utilise manpower and reduce the risk of transmission when the infected are being moved to a new location, the government said.

Travellers will be required to cover the cost of the extended stay if they elect to remain in their original hotel, the government said. BLOOMBERG

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