Published on : Tuesday, March 22, 2022
Hong Kong has planned to ease some COVID-19 restrictions next month, including lifting a ban on flights from nine countries, reducing hotel quarantine period and reopening of schools. The move comes even as the region continues to battle the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
The Chief executive Carrie Lam announced the decision on Monday. She said that under the new rules, hotel quarantine time for incoming travelers with negative Covid-19 test results would be reduced from two weeks to one week.
The new measures, which are likely to come into effect from 1 April, are expected to quite the criticism from locals who have grown frustrated with some of the stringent restrictions put in place for almost two years, since the beginning of the pandemic.
The measures were previously supposed to remain in place till 20 April, but Ms Lam announced that the ban on flights from the US, Britain, Canada, India, Nepal, France, Australia, the Philippines and Pakistan would be lifted from 1 April, while face-to-face classes would resume from 19 April.
There are many public avenues, including sports facilities, would reopen in the third week of April, she said, adding that other social distancing measures such as limits on the number of diners at restaurants and closure of bars, gyms and massage parlours would be eased in phases from 21 April.
Ms Lam added that plans for compulsory Covid-19 testing for the entire city would be put on hold. Her announcement came a day after she acknowledged that the city’s tolerance for pandemic restrictions was “fading”.
In a bid to contain the pandemic, Hong Kong implemented some of the strictest pandemic rules, effectively isolating the city since 2020. Known as the global financial hub, the city saw an exodus of foreign businesses and talents due to the tough border control measures.
There are more than 54,000 people left Hong Kong in March, while 71,000 in February and nearly 17,000 left the city in December before the fifth wave of the pandemic. The widespread closures have also had a bearing on the mental health of residents.