Hong Kong lengthens quarantines for 16 countries


Hong Kong: Hong Kong will tighten entry restrictions for travellers arriving from the United States and 15 other countries beginning Friday, extending the quarantine period to 21 days.

Previously, the 15 countries, which also include Malaysia, Thailand, France and the Netherlands, were classified as medium-risk, with travellers able to stay only seven days of quarantine if they were fully vaccinated and tested positive for antibodies prior to leaving for the city.

A resurgence of coronavirus cases in these countries due to the delta variant led them to be recategorised as high high-risk and stricter measures imposed, as the government sought to uphold the local barrier against the importation of COVID-19 , it said in a statement.

The changes come after a domestic worker who had returned to Hong Kong from the US earlier this month tested positive for the coronavirus, despite receiving two shots of vaccine and testing positive for antibodies.

The mandatory quarantine period was extended from seven to 14 days for fully vaccinated travellers with a positive antibody test arriving from Australia, now categorized as medium-risk. Quarantine requirements for New Zealand, which is the only country considered low-risk, remain at seven days for fully-vaccinated passengers.

Hong Kong’s zero-COVID strategy has seen authorities impose strict border restrictions and ban flights from extremely high-risk countries, in the hopes that no local community spread would allow it to re-open borders with mainland China.

The city had nearly two months of no cases within the local community, but its streak was broken earlier this month when a 43-year-old construction worker with no travel history was found to have antibodies in his blood despite not being vaccinated — indicating that he was probably infected some time ago.

Hong Kong has recorded a total of 12,037 coronavirus infections since the pandemic began, with 212 deaths.