Hong Kong lifts flight ban, cuts quarantine for arrivals

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Monday that the city would lift the ban on flights to nine countries, including Britain and the United States, on April 1.

City chief executive Carrie Lam announced at a news conference on Monday that the ban on flights to nine countries – Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Britain and the United States – would be lifted from April 1. The ban has been in effect in most countries since January, as authorities sought to curb the spread of highly contagious omikron variants in Hong Kong.

If travelers entering the city are tested negative for the virus on the sixth and seventh day of quarantine – quarantine hotels can separate for less than seven days – less than 14 days. Such travelers must be fully vaccinated and tested for coronavirus before entering the city.

Lam added that plans for a city-wide public testing exercise, which was first announced in February, would be postponed.

“Experts are of the opinion that it is not appropriate for us to devote limited resources to public testing,” Lam said. “The SAR government will continue to monitor the situation. When the situation improves, we will consider whether we will implement a mandatory universal test. “

The changes, announced Monday, signal a change in Hong Kong’s coronavirus epidemic management, as authorities sought to provide a direction for Hong Kong business and its residents, two years after China aligned itself with the mainland’s “zero COVID” policy.

Lam said the changes came as part of an interim review of the city’s arrangements and that the city’s various stakeholders would be consulted on any long-term roadmap for public health and economic development.

“We need to listen more closely to experts locally and from the mainland,” Lam said

“For any long-term public health strategy, we need to consider both the reasons for maintaining Hong Kong’s accessibility to the mainland and ensuring its uninterrupted connectivity with the outside world.”

On Monday, Lam further announced that social distance measures would remain in place, although they would be phased out from April 21 if infection did not increase, Lam said. The ban on eating after 6pm will be lifted and public gatherings will be limited to two to four people.

Other businesses that have been ordered to shut down temporarily, such as gyms and massage parlors, will also be allowed to reopen.

Hong Kong reported 14,145 infections on Sunday, the lowest in three weeks. On top of its outbreak, the city reports more than 50,000 cases daily, and more than 1 million infections and nearly 5,700 deaths have occurred since the current outbreak began late last year.

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