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LCQ16: Arrangements at the airport for travellers arriving in Hong Kong
     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (June 22):
     Some Hong Kong permanent residents recently returned to Hong Kong from overseas have complained to me about the chaotic arrangements at the Hong Kong International Airport (the airport) on reception of travellers arriving in Hong Kong and their quarantine upon arrival, which left both local residents and foreign travellers at a loss. The contents of their complaints include: that there was a lack of signage at the airport causing arriving travellers not clearly knowing where they should go; that travellers arriving in the small hours were not provided with any seats for taking a rest while waiting for several hours for receiving virus testing, and some travellers felt stuffy and unwell which was suspected to be caused by the air-conditioning system at the airport not having been turned on; that staff collecting specimens from travellers for testing did not clearly explain to travellers (especially foreign ones) about the subsequent quarantine arrangements after their arrivals; that travellers, when waiting for hotel feeder buses, easily spent more than one hour waiting, and travellers did not know which feeder bus to take nor when the next feeder bus would arrive due to the unclear signage there; and that the staff working there explained to travellers about the feeder buses' destinations only in Cantonese, but disregarded the enquiries about such destinations made by foreigners in English, which made Hong Kong residents also waiting for buses there need to explain to foreign travellers. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the current process for receiving arriving travellers at the airport;
(2) of the daily manpower arranged at the airport for receiving arriving travellers, and for conducting quarantine procedures for travellers; the respective ratios of full-time staff to part-time staff and their post titles;
(3) whether it has assessed if the current manpower at the airport is sufficient to cope with the daily inflow of arriving travellers; if it has assessed, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) whether the airport has employed temporary staff for executing the aforesaid work; if so, of the number of such staff employed, the expenditure involved, scopes of their work, and the criteria adopted by the airport for selecting and employing such staff;
(5) as some travellers who visited Hong Kong recently pointed out that the authorities had not advised them to download and use the "LeaveHomeSafe" mobile application (LeaveHomeSafe), whether foreign travellers are required to use LeaveHomeSafe during their stay in Hong Kong; if so, how the authorities give such instructions and clearly explain to foreign travellers about the application;
(6) whether it has looked into the reasons why those residents who returned to Hong Kong from overseas thought that the service quality of Hong Kong's airport was deteriorating and receiving bad comments;
(7) whether, during the epidemic, the authorities have conducted questionnaire surveys on arriving travellers to understand the experience of travellers with regard to the services and arrangements at the airport; if so, of the details; if not, whether they will consider conducting such surveys; and
(8) whether it has assessed if the chaotic arrangements in respect of quarantine and reception at the airport will reduce foreign travellers' interest in visiting Hong Kong, thereby bringing negative impacts on the post-epidemic recovery of Hong Kong's tourism sector?

     As the global pandemic persists, the Government continues to prevent the importation of cases under the policy direction of "dynamic zero infection" and maintains stringent inbound prevention and control measures.  These measures aim to, on the premise of the proper management of importation risks, allow Hong Kong to maintain contact with overseas places while rigorously guarding against imported cases from entering the local community.
     In addition to the stringent boarding requirements including being fully-vaccinated and pre-departure nucleic acid tests, inbound persons are subject to "test-and-hold" at the airport upon arrival, where those who obtain a negative result would be transferred by Government-arranged designated transport under closed-loop management to designated quarantine hotels (DQHs) for compulsory quarantine, during which they would undergo multiple tests.  The relevant arrangements are necessary measures to prevent the importation of cases, which can help identify imported cases as early as possible for appropriate isolation, and can effectively segregate inbound persons who may be infected but are still under the incubation period, in order to prevent cases from entering the local community as far as possible.
     In consultation with the Transport and Housing Bureau, Innovation and Technology Bureau as well as Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, the consolidated reply to the question raised by the Hon Paul Tse is as follows:
"Test and hold" arrangement, obtaining quarantine order and transfer to DQHs
     Generally inbound persons from overseas and Taiwan, upon disembarkation, are required to proceed to the Temporary Specimen Collection Centre (TSCC) one set up at the airport Midfield Concourse to undergo the "test-and-hold" arrangement and receive quarantine orders. The Government and the Airport Authority of Hong Kong have already set up clear and large signage along the route and arranged on-site staff to provide instructions and assistance. Major steps involved are as follows:

(a) Present upon entering TSCC the QR code generated by the completed electronic health declaration form and undergo temperature screening;
(b) Verify personal details and receive specimen collection bottles at specimen registration counters;
(c) Undergo in individual specimen collection booths a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based nucleic acid test as well as a rapid antigen test (RAT) at the same time by professional specimen collection;
(d) Submit documentation such as personal identification documents, vaccination records and booking confirmation at DQHs for verification and issuance of quarantine orders by staff at the counter handling quarantine order. Those who hold non-local vaccination records would also be issued the QR codes for Provisional Vaccine Pass.

     If the RAT results of the relevant inbound persons are negative, they can leave TSCC to proceed with immigration procedures. Upon completion of which and following instructions of the staff on site, they will be transferred under closed-loop management by designated transport to DQHs to wait for the PCR-based nucleic acid test results and undergo compulsory quarantine. Currently, it takes about an average of 55 minutes for travellers to complete the above procedures.
     The inbound travellers would reach the waiting hall for designated transportation after leaving the Restricted Area. Having registered at the counter, they would be informed of the route number for the designated transportation. The inbound travellers should then queue up and go downstairs for the coach. The security guards of the airport and the staff of the contractors would provide instructions and assistance to the travellers in Cantonese, Putonghua and simple English. Notices in Chinese and English are also placed in appropriate locations to remind travellers to get ready the documentation required, information of the route and DQH. In non-peak hours, the waiting time from registration to boarding should be within 30 minutes.
     There are about 180 Government employees and about 320 outsourced staff responsible for the daily operation of TSCC one, including temperature screening, quarantine and passenger clearance, crowd control, specimen collection and other administrative duties. To ensure the smooth operation of the designated transportation, about nine government officers are deployed to monitor the situation every day. Besides, the contractor of designated transportation has deployed about 240 staff to run the service.
     Generally speaking, the above manpower would suffice for handling the relevant duties. The Government understands that the waiting time might be longer during certain peak periods due to the large number of travellers. Since the implementation of "test-and-hold" in March 2020 and the DQH arrangement in December 2020, the Government has been reviewing and constantly enhancing the relevant arrangements, so that while infected cases can be detected and isolated as early as possible, the waiting time of inbound persons can be shortened as much as possible, including setting up TSCC at the airport Midfield Concourse, adopting rapid PCR-based nucleic acid tests, as well as the addition of RAT on May 9 this year, allowing inbound persons with negative RAT results to proceed to DQHs to wait for their PCR-based nucleic test results, etc.
     The Government will continue to closely monitor the number of arrivals at the Hong Kong International Airport, as well as the time taken for the relevant inbound persons to undergo "test-and-hold" and be transferred to DQHs under closed-loop arrangement, and will review the relevant implementation details in order to further enhance the relevant arrangements.
"LeaveHomeSafe" and Provisional Vaccine Pass
     Under the prevailing social distancing measures, in general, all customers entering specified premises are required to scan the venue QR code using the "LeaveHomeSafe" mobile app. Persons aged 12 or above are required to display the Vaccine Pass QR code for scanning by the "QR Code Verification Scanner" mobile app when entering some of the premises subject to active checking of Vaccine Pass. To tie in with the relevant arrangement, from May 5 onwards, inbound travellers subject to compulsory quarantine will be issued a Provisional Vaccine Pass QR code at land boundary control points and the airport to facilitate their entry to specified premises. They could use the "LeaveHomeSafe" mobile app to display the Provisional Vaccine Pass or carry the paper record. The Provisional Vaccine Pass contains the hyperlink to the Vaccine Pass thematic website to provide relevant information. The Government has also prepared a series of leaflets to illustrate the latest arrangement and requirements of Vaccine Pass, as well as a number of relevant videos and infographics for introducing how to use the "LeaveHomeSafe" mobile app and display the Vaccine Pass, with a view to allowing citizens and travellers to have a better understanding of the related operation.
     As for the desire of visitors to travel to Hong Kong mentioned by the Member, it depends on various factors, including personal travel experience, economic considerations, the local and global epidemic development and changes in anti-epidemic arrangements, etc. The mode of tourism worldwide has been evolving according to the development of the epidemic. When planning their itineraries, travellers will carefully consider the risks of the epidemic in various places and the required testing, quarantine and other arrangements. The Government will continue to closely monitor the development of the epidemic and maintain close liaison with the trade; encourage the trade to develop and launch more tourism routes and products with cultural and heritage elements through different incentive schemes; improve the professional standards and service quality of the talents in the tourism industry by subsidising the training of tourism practitioners; and provide additional funding to the Hong Kong Tourism Board in a bid to revive the tourism industry, so as to get prepared for the recovery of tourism industry. The Airport Authority of Hong Kong has been actively cooperating with the Government in implementing quarantine arrangements at the Hong Kong International Airport, and will reflect to the Government any comments from travellers relating to the quarantine arrangement.
Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Issued at HKT 17:35
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