Quarantine exemptions for mainland returnees shelved

Hong Kong moved to insulate itself from a worsening Covid-19 situation on the mainland on Wednesday, by suspending quarantine exemptions for residents returning from anywhere on the mainland bar Guangdong.

Up to 6,000 residents could return to Hong Kong each day from the mainland, without being subject to compulsory quarantine, through the Return2HK scheme.

But the government said on Wednesday that, after taking into account the latest pandemic situation on the mainland, Hong Kong residents who’ve been anywhere other than Guangdong in the previous two weeks will have to do 14 days of home quarantine.

The seven-day quarantine arrangement for fully vaccinated people also no longer applies.

The move also follows the decision to include Macau on Hong Kong’s list of “at risk” places and remove it from the scheme.

Residents returning from places other than Guangdong will need to take Covid tests on the 3rd, 7th and 12th day following their arrival while they’re in quarantine.

They’ will need to undergo two more tests, on the 16th and 19th day after their arrival as well.

Infectious diseases expect Leung Chi-chiu said the decision was sensible and timely.

“The current outbreak in the mainland involves air traffic, and a lot of passengers may go through multiple airports… there may be a rapid transmission across different airports,” he said. “If we don’t stop such arrangement now, it will be very difficult for us to re-trace those who have been affected.”

But Leung said it would also be prudent to tighten quarantine arrangements for people returning from places with known Covid outbreaks.

“We need to tighten it up to make it compulsory for quarantine at designated hotels, and we should consider that if we see community transmission within Macau within the next few days in their compulsory testing,” he said.

“For other cities, we should apply the similar arrangement if there is evidence of community transmission, we should tighten up the quarantine arrangement in designated hotels instead of just home quarantine.”