First modification: 09/23/2022 – 14:16
Hong Kong (AFP) – Hong Kong will end the mandatory covid-19 quarantine for foreigners arriving in its territory, the chief executive announced on Friday, ending two and a half years of international isolation of this financial center.
“Under this provision, the quarantine system in a hotel will be cancelled,” John Lee told reporters.
However, travelers will be subjected to a PCR test upon arrival and will not be able to go to bars and restaurants for the first three days, according to a system called “0+3” by the authorities.
And tourists are still at risk of being isolated in a hotel room or, in the worst case, being sent to a quarantine camp, if they test positive for the coronavirus on arrival in Hong Kong.
The long-awaited lifting of restrictions will relieve residents and businesses that have asked this Asian financial center to follow the global trend by re-authorizing unrestricted travel.
The government has been facing mounting pressure from residents, businessmen and even health advisers to end the lockdown for some time, especially after a wave of epidemics earlier this year.
Dethroned Hong Kong
Since then, the number of local infections has greatly exceeded that of infections from abroad, but the authorities preferred to maintain the quarantine rules.
These regulations, which provided for up to 21 days of isolation in a hotel, caused a significant exodus: 113,000 people left the city since mid-2021, according to official data.
And the economic cost has been significant: the city is currently in a technical recession after having recorded a drop in GDP for two consecutive quarters.
“There is a strong possibility that Hong Kong will see negative GDP growth this year,” the city’s finance secretary, Paul Chan, warned on Thursday.
According to a world ranking released on Thursday, in which New York and London remain in the top positions, Hong Kong has lost its position as the first financial center in Asia, which is now occupied by Singapore.
Hong Kong airport was once one of the busiest in the world. But the number of passengers this year barely represents 3.8% of the pre-pandemic level.
Following Friday’s announcement, the websites of Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific and its low-cost subsidiary HK Express were flooded with visitors.
But Hong Kong is unlikely to suddenly return to mass tourism.
In the last two years, several companies have reduced their itineraries or given up flying to the city. In addition, prices have skyrocketed: the price of a ticket to Los Angeles or London has doubled compared to the pre-pandemic period
Hong Kong has applied a more flexible version of China’s “zero covid” strategy, which imposes multiple lockdowns from the appearance of positive cases as well as almost mandatory PCR tests every 72 or 48 hours.
China is the only major economy in the world to maintain a long quarantine period for international arrivals.
© 2022 AFP