Government adjusts boarding, quarantine and testing arrangements for inbound travellers on risk-based principle
Flight suspension mechanism
The Government has implemented the place-specific flight suspension mechanism since January this year for Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States of America to restrict persons who have stayed in these nine places to board flights for Hong Kong. The place-specific flight suspension mechanism is an extremely severe emergency measure, and its original intention is to avoid putting additional pressure on the local healthcare system that would have been brought about by the spike of imported cases arising from the large number of inbound travellers coming from the relevant places when the Omicron virus variant was emerging. The enforcement of this severe measure will undeniably strand the Hong Kong residents planning to return to Hong Kong from these nine places, and they may encounter various problems as they are unable to return to Hong Kong.
Taking into account that the epidemic situation has been gradually stabilising since early March, the capacity of local isolation and treatment facilities has been greatly expanded. In addition, most travellers arriving at Hong Kong who were infected with the Omicron virus variant have either been asymptomatic or only had mild symptoms, and did not require treatment in hospitals even if tested positive after arrival. The relevant pressure has thus been relatively relieved. In view of the well-being of local residents as well as socio-economic needs at the same time, the Government will lift the place-specific flight suspension mechanism for the aforementioned nine places from April 1. This is on the premise that the returning Hong Kong residents would still have to undergo compulsory quarantine in designated quarantine hotels (DQHs) under the measures guarding against the importation of cases, while the route-specific flight suspension mechanism would continue to be applicable with suitable adjustments.
Boarding, quarantine and testing requirements for overseas inbound travellers
From April 1, all Hong Kong residents who have stayed in overseas places can board flights for Hong Kong under the following boarding, quarantine and testing arrangements:
- From 0.00am on April 1 (Hong Kong time), Hong Kong residents who have stayed in any overseas places in the previous 14 days can only board a flight for Hong Kong if they comply with the following conditions. Meanwhile, non-Hong Kong residents will not be allowed to board flights for Hong Kong from any overseas places.
(i) Fully vaccinated (Note 1) and hold a recognised vaccination record;
(ii) Hold a negative result proof of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based nucleic acid test for COVID-19 conducted with specimen collected within 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure of the aircraft, and
(iii) Hold a confirmation of room reservation in a DQH for seven or 14 nights from the day of arrival at Hong Kong (depending on whether they could meet the relevant conditions and choose early discharge from compulsory quarantine as per local isolation and quarantine arrangements) (Note 2).
- The relevant persons will be subject to the "test-and-hold" arrangement upon arrival at the Hong Kong International Airport. Upon tested negative with a PCR-based nucleic acid test, they will be taken to DQHs by designated transport to undergo compulsory quarantine.
- The basic quarantine requirement for the relevant persons is to undergo compulsory quarantine for 14 days in a DQH, and they will be issued a 14-day quarantine order. They are subject to daily rapid antigen tests (RATs), as well as PCR-based nucleic acid tests on the fifth and 12th days of arrival at Hong Kong.
- As the relevant persons have been fully vaccinated (Note 1), under the isolation and quarantine arrangements of local cases (Note 2), if the results of the PCR-based nucleic acid test conducted on the fifth day and the RATs conducted on the sixth and seventh days are all negative, they can be discharged from compulsory quarantine earlier. However, they will be required to undergo self-monitoring for seven days, and undergo a compulsory PCR-based nucleic acid test on the 12th day of arrival at Hong Kong at a community testing centre (CTC) or a mobile testing station (MTS), or arrange a self-paid test by professional swab sampling at a local medical institution recognised by the Government.
- In accordance with the "family-friendly" principle which has been running well, Hong Kong residents or children of Hong Kong residents aged under 12 and are yet to be vaccinated can also board flights for Hong Kong if they are accompanied by Hong Kong residents who comply with the above boarding requirements. These children must also hold a negative result proof of a PCR-based nucleic acid test for COVID-19 conducted with specimen collected within 48 hours as stated above, and confirmation of room reservation in a DQH. The children must undergo compulsory quarantine together with the accompanying persons. If the results of the PCR-based nucleic acid test conducted on the fifth day and the RATs conducted on the sixth and seventh days are all negative, the children can also be discharged from quarantine earlier with the accompanying persons. Just as the accompanying persons, these children must undergo self-monitoring for seven days, and compulsory testing on the 12th day of arrival at Hong Kong as per the requirements above.
- To better utilise limited DQH rooms, inbound travellers should decide when making their DQH booking whether or not they will choose to be discharged from compulsory quarantine earlier upon fulfilling the relevant conditions in accordance with the above arrangements, and correspondingly reserve their DQH rooms for seven or 14 nights.
- Inbound travellers who plan on early discharge from compulsory quarantine upon fulfilling the relevant conditions must hold at boarding a confirmation of a seven-night room reservation in a DQH. For inbound travellers who hold a confirmation of a seven-night room reservation in a DQH, the quarantine order issued to them will indicate that upon fulfilling the above criteria for early discharge from compulsory quarantine, they will be considered to have completed their compulsory quarantine, and they must then depart the DQH.
- If inbound travellers choose to complete the whole 14-day compulsory quarantine period in the DQH, they must at boarding hold a confirmation of a 14-night room reservation in a DQH. Persons who hold a confirmation of a 14-night room reservation in a DQH will not be arranged for early discharge from compulsory quarantine, and must stay in the DQH room for completing the 14-day compulsory quarantine. They can only leave the DQH upon confirmation of negative results of the PCR-based nucleic acid test conducted on the 12th day and the RAT conducted on the 14th day.
- If any result is positive from the "test-and-hold" PCR-based nucleic acid test, the PCR-based nucleic acid tests conducted on the fifth day or the 12th day, or the daily RATs, the relevant inbound traveller will be arranged to undergo suitable isolation and treatment under the multi-tiered triage and treatment strategy as with local positive cases. Inbound travellers tested positive after arrival and have no obvious symptoms and no need for medical support will be transferred to a community isolation facility hotel and be issued an isolation order. Their isolation and discharge arrangements will be the same as those for local positive cases under isolation, i.e. for those who are fully vaccinated, they can be considered to have completed isolation upon receiving negative results from the RATs conducted on the sixth day and the seventh day after being tested positive.
For fully vaccinated persons who arrive at Hong Kong earlier and are required to undergo the eighth to 14th days of quarantine in DQHs on or after April 1 as per the original quarantine orders (i.e. inbound travellers from overseas who arrive at Hong Kong between March 19 and March 31), the Department of Health will arrange for them to undergo the necessary nucleic acid tests and RATs by batches in an orderly manner before the completion of quarantine. If they obtain negative results in the relevant tests and have completed at least seven days of quarantine, they will be arranged to leave the DQHs in turn accordingly. Upon departure from the DQHs, the relevant persons will need to self-monitor until the 14th day of arrival at Hong Kong, and undergo a compulsory PCR-based nucleic acid test by professional swab sampling on the 12th day of arrival at Hong Kong for free at a CTC or an MTS. The relevant persons can also undergo a self-paid PCR-based nucleic acid test at a local testing institution recognised by the Government.
The days of a person's arrival at Hong Kong is counted with the day of arrival at Hong Kong as the first day. For example, for a person who arrives at Hong Kong on April 1, he or she shall undergo the 12th-day test on April 12.
The details of the boarding, quarantine, and testing arrangements for persons arriving at Hong Kong from overseas places are set out at the Annex. The quarantine and testing requirements for inbound travellers arriving from the Mainland, Macao or Taiwan will also be rationalised correspondingly. The Government will continue to closely monitor the epidemic situation of different places in accordance with the principles of guarding against the importation of cases, and will consider a basket of factors under the risk-based principle, including public health considerations such as epidemic situation in particular places, testing rate, vaccination rate, volume of travellers and actual imported cases, as well as the developments of the local epidemic situation and other local socio-economic factors to adjust the boarding, quarantine and testing arrangements for overseas arrivals based on risk levels as the situation warrants.
The Government will gazette the relevant updated specifications under the Compulsory Quarantine of Certain Persons Arriving at Hong Kong Regulation (Cap. 599C), the Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation (Cap. 599E), the Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap. 599H), and the Prevention and Control of Disease (Compulsory Testing for Certain Persons) Regulation (Cap. 599J) to effect the above measures from 0.00am on April 1 (Hong Kong Time).
On the premise of continuing the measures to guard against the importation of cases, the Government requires that all airlines must stringently enforce the boarding requirements for inbound travellers, so as to reduce the risk of importation of cases as far as practicable, and will continue to impose the flight suspension mechanism against specific non-compliant routes based on the streamlined triggering criteria, where if on the same flight there are (i) three or more passengers tested positive for COVID-19 by arrival test, or (ii) one or more passenger(s) is/are tested positive for COVID-19 by arrival test and one or more non-compliant case(s), i.e. failed to comply with the requirement(s) specified under (Cap. 599H), the passenger flights of that route from the relevant airline from the same origin place will be prohibited from landing in Hong Kong for seven days.
Note 1: For the purpose of inbound boarding and quarantine requirements, fully vaccinated generally involves receiving two doses of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine (CoronaVac vaccine) or the Fosun Pharma/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty vaccine) 14 days before coming to Hong Kong. Persons previously infected with COVID-19 who have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine can be considered fully vaccinated. As for persons aged between 12 and 17 on the scheduled day of arrival at Hong Kong, they may be deemed to have completed the COVID-19 vaccination course on receiving one dose of the Comirnaty vaccine. For individuals who received COVID-19 vaccines in places outside of Hong Kong and have received the required dose(s) as stipulated in the List of COVID-19 Vaccines Recognised for Specified Purposes and the relevant guidelines, they will also be regarded to have completed the vaccination course of the relevant COVID-19 vaccine.
For the purpose of boarding requirements, relevant persons who are fully vaccinated and hold a recognised vaccination record, as well as children under 12-year-old accompanied by them, can board for Hong Kong. In addition, persons who (i) are unfit for vaccination due to health reasons with relevant proof from a medical practitioner; or (ii) have received one dose of recognised COVID-19 vaccine and hold a recognised vaccination record, if they were certified by a medical practitioner that they were unfit to receive the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine because of health reasons after receiving the first dose of vaccine, while they are not considered to be fully vaccinated, they are exceptionally allowed to board flights for Hong Kong. The relevant medical certificate must indicate the relevant health reasons in English or Chinese.
Note 2: The basic quarantine period for local close contacts is 14 days, and the basic isolation period is 14 days for local positive cases who have no obvious symptoms and no need for medical support. In view of factors such as community risk assessment and easing pressure on local human resources, the Government announced earlier that persons under isolation or quarantine, if they have received at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, may leave isolation or quarantine earlier on the seventh day if the results of their RATs on the sixth day and the seventh day are negative. The relevant arrangements will be adjusted as appropriate taking into account the developments of the local epidemic situation and community risk assessments.
Ends/Sunday, March 27, 2022
Issued at HKT 1:01
Issued at HKT 1:01