Hong Kong wants to ease COVID-19 rules like mandatory hotel quarantine that have made travel difficult for nearly three years, Chief Executive John Lee (李家超) said yesterday, as mainland Chinese officials signaled their approval.
The number of infections in Hong Kong has fallen to about 6,000 a day, creating room to reconsider the measures that have crimped the territory’s competitiveness, Lee told reporters at a weekly briefing.
Hotel quarantine will be replaced with seven days of home health monitoring, the South China Morning Post reported, though it said the change would not be announced until all the details have been determined.
The plans appear to have been blessed by leaders on the mainland, despite their adherence to a “zero COVID-19” approach.
China supports Hong Kong’s efforts to have close, extensive contact with the rest of the world and sees no problem with adjusting its rules, Huang Liuquan (黃柳權), deputy director of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, told a separate briefing in Beijing.
Hong Kong’s residents have been anticipating a reduction in the travel curbs, including hotel quarantine requirements and pre-flight polymerase chain reaction testing, as a series of high-profile international events are scheduled to begin late next month. Visitors that Hong Kong’s leaders want to attract have said they would not come if the restrictions were too harsh.
“We know for the epidemic control, there’s impact on connectivity to the world,” Lee said. “We want to have the maximum connectivity to the world and to reduce inconvenience related to quarantine rules. We are orderly working towards that direction.”
Lee has taken a number of steps to make travel less of a high-stakes gamble since being sworn into office on July 1. He ended some flight bans that could unpredictably derail travel, slashed hotel quarantine stays, announced a plan to cease ordering people into government-run isolation facilities and stopped taking the temperatures of transit passengers as they passed through the territory’s airport.
The shift has come in contrast to the doubling down by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on the zero-tolerance approach in China, and Lee is trying to steer the territory through reopening to the rest of the world without becoming a vector for spreading infection to the mainland.
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