Hong Kong to ease some Covid restrictions, lift flight ban from April
There may be the tiniest flicker of light at the end of a very dark Covid-19 tunnel in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government has confirmed that from next month, it will ease some restrictions and lift a travel ban imposed on 9 countries deemed high-risk during the Omicron outbreak. They include the US, the UK, France, India, and Nepal. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says it no longer makes sense to keep the travel bans in place in light of the changing situation.
“The epidemic situations in those countries are not worse than Hong Kong’s, and most arrivals did not have serious symptoms. To extend the circuit-breaker will add to the concerns and anxieties of Hong Kong residents stranded there.”
According to an AFP report, the hotel quarantine period for vaccinated arrivals will be reduced from 14 days to 7, followed by another 7 days’ home isolation. At the moment, Hong Kong residents returning home must carry out hotel quarantine for 14 days (previously reduced from 21 days) at their own expense. The US has also issued travel warnings about the risk of children being separated from their parents if they test positive on landing.
From April 19, Lam says schools can return to in-classroom learning and from April 21, restaurants can remain open after 6pm for on-site dining. The maximum size of public gatherings will increase from 2 to 4. She also confirmed that the government’s plan to conduct mass testing on Hong Kong’s 7.4 million residents was being shelved.
The Lam government has been severely criticised for its handling of this latest wave, which tore through Hong Kong’s care homes and saw the territory record the world’s highest death toll, primarily due to the number of elderly people who remained unvaccinated. Hospitals reached breaking point, morgues ran out of space, and there was even a coffin shortage last week.
The government’s insistence on pursuing its zero-Covid strategy, which was behind some of the world’s harshest restrictions, had sparked a mass exodus of over 134,000 local residents and expat workers by the middle of this month. The territory’s entrenched and ongoing international isolation, coupled with the absence of a roadmap back to normality, also led to complaints from the business and diplomatic communities, with several major international banking firms planning to relocate out of Hong Kong.
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