STORY: Hong Kong’s government has announced it will scrap its COVID-19 hotel quarantine policy for all arrivals.
More than 2.5 years after it first came into effect, the controversial system will end on Monday (September 26).
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee said on Friday (September 23) that travelers will simply be asked to monitor themselves for symptoms for three days after entering.
"For the Hong Kong arrivals at the airport, there will be a PCR test. There’s no need to wait for the result before they can either return home, or go to a hotel of their choice to wait for the PCR result. This is a test-and-go arrangement, while the test-and-hold arrangement no longer applies. And when leaving the airport, they can choose to take any kind of transport, including public transport. They can go home, or go to a hotel for accommodation."
He also added that pre-flight PCR tests will no longer be required for entry - replaced instead by a rapid antigen test.
Although people will be allowed to go to work or school, they will be banned from entering bars or restaurants for three days.
37-YEAR-OLD FINANCE WORKER, DONNA LAU, SAYING:
“Well, I’m very happy about the decision, finally. Compared to other countries, obviously there’s still some kinds of restrictions, but I mean it’s still very good news for all of us.”
40-YEAR-OLD FINANCE WORKER, ANDY GU, SAYING:
“It’s about time to open up. We need to stay competitive on the global markets, jobs, and get the economy going. I’m looking forward to traveling again. It’s been years, I want to go home, to Taiwan, to America, to see my family. It will be very good to be able to travel and fly again without the quarantine measures in place.”
Over the past year, the hotel quarantine policy has been gradually eased.
When it was first implemented, international travelers were required to spend three weeks in quarantine.
Aside from mainland China, the former British colony has been a global outlier in imposing hotel quarantine for international arrivals.
The "dynamic zero" strategy has been slammed by businesses, diplomats and residents alike, who say it threatened Hong Kong's competitiveness and standing as a global financial center.
The rules have weighed heavily on the economy and help fuel an exodus of both expats and local families, kick-started by Beijing's efforts to exert control and limit freedoms.
According to government figures, some 113,000 people have left since mid-2021.
Despite today's announcement, COVID rules remain in place.
Hong Kong still bans public groups of more than four people and masks are mandatory for all, including children as young as two.