Govt tightens quarantine arrangement for 16 countries

The government on Monday announced tighter quarantine arrangements for people arriving in Hong Kong from 16 countries, including the United States, citing the threat from the more infectious Delta coronavirus variant.

Officials said 15 countries will be upgraded from medium risk to high risk, meaning travellers have to be vaccinated and undergo quarantine for 21 days when they arrive here.

They are Bangladesh, Cambodia, France, Greece, Iran, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the US.

Australia, meanwhile, will be moved from low risk to medium risk.

People coming from medium-risk countries can spend as few as seven days in quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and their antibody test is positive. Other arrivals will be quarantined for 14 or 21 days.

The new arrangements will take effect from August 20.

A government spokesman said there’s a need to upgrade the risk grouping of the 16 countries in order to “uphold the local barrier against the importation of Covid-19.”

“The global Covid-19 epidemic situation is under serious threat from the Delta variant, with acute surges in the number of confirmed cases within a short period of time in many countries,” he said.

Respiratory disease specialist, Leung Chi-chiu, said the authorities should also order those who recently returned from the newly added 15 high-risk regions to undergo 14 days of quarantine.

“Some of them may still be in their quarantine period, and some of them may have gone into our community, and that will pose a risk,” he said.

The government’s quarantine policies have come under scrutiny after a foreign domestic helper who recently returned from the US and spent seven days in isolation tested positive for the virus.