December 29, 2022
HONG KONG – Inbound travelers to Hong Kong will no longer need to do a mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test on arrival, announced Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Wednesday.
The special administrative region will also scrap the vaccine pass scheme, which came into effect on Feb 24 this year, and quarantine requirements for close contacts, the CE said at a press conference.
All measures would be cancelled on Thursday, apart from the wearing of masks which still remains compulsory, he said.
Those arriving into Hong Kong will now need to just present negative results from PCR test conducted within 48 hours or rapid antigen tests (RAT) in 24 hours before their flight.
He said the authorities have been preparing for the scrapping of all restrictions. “The time is appropriate for us to do this, having prepared for six months to do this,” he said replying to question whether the move came suddenly and rapidly.
I want to tell the world that this is Hong Kong. Hong Kong is very normal now. It has come to the right time that we will do without the vaccine pass.
John Lee, Chief Executive, HKSAR
“There will always come a day when we have to make a big decision … The whole society is preparing for this. We are doing all this according to our local epidemic situation.”
With a 94-percent vaccination rate and about 2.5 million people already infected with the virus, the pandemic risks are controllable, he said, adding that the relatively high vaccination rate builds an anti-epidemic barrier.
“I want to tell the world that this is Hong Kong. Hong Kong is very normal now. It has come to the right time that we will do without the vaccine pass.”
“Hong Kong has a sufficient amount of medicine to fight COVID, and healthcare workers have gained rich experience in facing the pandemic,” he added.
Following the adjustments in the anti-epidemic measures, rules for schools would also be changed, the CE said, adding that Education Bureau would make related announcements in time.
Students remained a high-risk group, Lee said pointing out that the vaccination rate among children was relatively low and they spend a large amount of time together at schools.
Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau meanwhile said at the same briefing that the EDB will review vaccine requirements for the city’s schools, with primary and kindergarten pupils still having to undergo RAT on a daily basis.
Asked about resuming normal cross-border travel, Lee said his government is aiming to reopen the borders with the mainland by Jan 15 and was working with authorities over the border to ensure an orderly re-opening.
The Hong Kong leader expressed his disappointment at Japan’s decision to restrict Hong Kong travelers from landing at all but four airports of the country beginning Friday.
The Japanese consul general in Hong Kong has been approached regarding the restriction, Lee said, adding that: “I hope the restrictions will be lifted as soon as possible.”
Hong Kong’s Economic and Trade Office in Tokyo is also offering help to Hong Kong residents needing the help, including arranging ferries to transfer passengers to the four airports.
Centre for Health Protection Controller Edwin Tsui Lok-kin also attended the briefing.
The expected announcement comes after Lee said on Saturday that Hong Kong would reopen its borders with mainland China by mid-January.
Inbound passengers arriving in Hong Kong since mid-month are no longer subject to COVID-related movement controls or barred from certain venues.
And while Hong Kong has effectively dismantled many of its stringent COVID rules in recent months, masks are still compulsory in public places unless exercising, while international arrivals are required to do a PCR COVID-19 test on arrival and once again two days later. A mandatory vaccine pass has also been in place since February.