Hong Kong takes its biggest step towards reopening to the world this week with the end of mandatory hotel quarantine for all visitors arriving from Monday September 26.
The move continues Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee’s "orderly opening-up” to boost the financial hub’s revival, having been largely isolated since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic in February 2020 due to adopting some of the world’s strictest health measures, while it neighbours – especially regional rival Singapore – continue to power ahead after reopening.
“We made this decision after we took factors such as livelihoods, economic activities, Hong Kong’s competitiveness, convenience for arrivals into account, as well as striking a balance between various needs,” Lee says.
But while hotel quarantine is gone, visitors still face restrictions until their fourth day in the city under the new ‘0+3’ scheme: here’s a rundown of how that works.
Pre-flight rapid antigen test
All travellers headed for Hong Kong must undergo a rapid antigen test (RAT) and return a negative result within 24 hours before boarding their flight – this replaces the previous PCR screening requirement, and the rapid test can be self-administered.
Hong Kong’s Department of Health advises that travellers must also complete an online Health Declaration Form after obtaining a negative test result – the resultant green Health Declaration QR code must be shown at the airport when you check in for your flight.
On-arrival PCR test
Upon arrival at Hong Kong airport, visitors undergo a PCR test but under a new ‘test and go’ regime are immediately free to head to their hotel via any kind of transport, rather than waiting for the test result.
The day of arrival is considered Day 0.
Days 1-3 in Hong Kong
During the first three full days in Hong Kong, visitors must take a daily self-administered rapid test along with an authorised PCR test on Day 2 – but are otherwise free to move around the city, including catching public transport and visiting shopping malls, offices etc.
However, the government’s Leave Home Safe app on their smartphone will show an amber code which will prevent them from entering any place which requires a vaccine pass check – a lengthy list including restaurants, bars, nightclubs, swimming pools, gyms and beauty parlours.
Days 4-7 in Hong Kong
Assuming the RAT and PCR tests in the first three days return negative results, the Leave Home Safe app switches to a blue code which lifts the previous movement restrictions.
However, there are still daily self-administered rapid tests plus authorised PCR tests on Days 4 and 6.
Should a visitor return a positive result to one of the PCR tests on days 2, 4 or 6 they will either be isolated in a quarantine hotel or community facility “depending on the situation,” the Department of Health advises.