Hong Kong scraps most COVID rules, though masks still required

HONG KONG, Dec 28 (Reuters) – Hong Kong will roll back its strict COVID-19 rules from Thursday, city leader John Lee said, meaning arrivals will no longer need to take tests Mandatory PCRs while the city vaccine pass would also be removed.

All measures would be canceled on Thursday, except for mask-wearing which still remains compulsory, Lee said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

“The city has achieved a relatively high vaccination rate which builds an anti-epidemic barrier,” Lee said.

“Hong Kong has enough medicine to fight COVID, and health care workers have gained rich experience in coping with the pandemic,” he added.

Lee said his government aims to reopen borders with mainland China by Jan. 15 and is working with authorities across the border to ensure an orderly reopening.

He said authorities were preparing for the removal of all restrictions.

“Now is the time for us to do this, after preparing for six months to do this,” Lee said. “The whole society is preparing for it. We are doing all this according to our local epidemic situation.”

Hong Kong’s vaccine pass requirement, which was imposed in February and was essential for people to access most sites in Hong Kong, will end from Thursday. Social distancing rules such as caps on gatherings of more than 12 people in public will also be scrapped from Thursday.

The city has for nearly three years largely followed China’s lead in the fight against the novel coronavirus, with the two places the latest strongholds to adopt a zero-COVID policy.

The removal of curbs is expected to lead to an increase in travelers to the former British colony who previously avoided it due to tight restrictions.

In an abrupt shift in policy, China this month began dismantling the world’s strictest COVID regime of lockdowns and extensive testing. The country will stop requiring incoming travelers to self-quarantine from January 8, authorities announced this week.

Restrictions on travel between Hong Kong and the mainland were imposed in early 2020. The reopening has been postponed several times due to epidemics in Hong Kong or the mainland.

International passengers arriving in Hong Kong since mid-month are no longer subject to COVID-related movement controls or barred from certain venues, the government announced in December.

Business groups, diplomats and many residents had criticized Hong Kong’s COVID-19 rules, saying they threatened its competitiveness and position as an international financial hub.

The rules have weighed on Hong Kong’s economy since the start of 2020, accelerating an exodus of businesses, expats and local families who left amid a drive by Beijing to control the former British colony more tightly. .

Additional reporting by Jessie Pang and Angel Woo; Editing by Tom Hogue, Lincoln Feast and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Author: niso

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