Hong Kong weighs conditional quarantine-free travel by November

HONG KONG'S new health chief said conditional quarantine-free travel could be allowed by November in time for a global bankers' summit to be held in the city, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday (Jul 13).

The city doesn't need to follow mainland China's tough Covid-19 policies because it enjoys some degree of freedom under the "one country, 2 systems" principle, Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau said in an interview with the newspaper.

"Is nothing required anymore? I think that would be a bit tough," Lo said in the interview. "At least PCR testing is needed. But does quarantine have to be confined to a fixed location?"

He floated a scenario where arrivals could be subject to PCR testing and prohibited from attending high-risk venues like bars. The city is also planning a China-like health code system to manage social distancing. A yellow code will allow people to go to work but prohibit them from high-risk places like aged-care homes or venues where masks are removed.

Lo said he would still need to examine the latest data on the positive rate in Covid tests submitted on the third day of hotel quarantine by overseas arrivals before he could decide on changes to the rules, the paper said. This could lead to moving to 5 days of hotel quarantine followed by 2 days of home isolation, or even just 7 days of home isolation.

A summit to gather more than 100 global financial executives has been scheduled for November by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and Financial Secretary, but any period of hotel quarantine would still likely deter travellers when most of the world has removed such restrictions.

JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive officer Jamie Dimon visited Hong Kong in November 2021 after being exempt from quarantine, drawing criticisms he had received preferential treatment.

The city's flagship sporting event, the Rugby Sevens, being planned for November will also depend on quarantine-free travel to draw players and spectators. Organizers are waiting for a government decision on whether the tournament can go ahead. BLOOMBERG

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