Starting May 1, Hong Kong will end its ban on non-residents entering the city as it eases its tough zero-COVID policy.
The government issued a statement on Friday announcing plans to ease restrictions in May as coronavirus cases gradually stabilize.
"Although daily passenger arrivals have increased since April 1 when the government lifted the flight bans from nine overseas regions, the ratio of imported cases has dropped instead of risen," the statement said.
As such, Hong Kong's stringent pandemic measures will be adjusted to allow non-residents to enter the city starting May 1 — essentially the first time they've been allowed to do so since March 2020.
But Hong Kong, whose policies are closely aligned with those of mainland China, isn't abandoning its strict rules like mandatory quarantine just yet.
Hong Kong rules for international arrivals
Under the new entry system, travelers will take a rapid COVID-19 test at the airport, and those who are negative will be sent to a designated hotel to quarantine for seven days.
Prior to departure they must be fully vaccinated with a recognized vaccination certificate and test negative with a PCR test conducted 48 hours in advance. They must also present confirmation that they have reserved and pre-paid for accommodation at their quarantine hotel.
In addition to vaccination records and test results, Hong Kong requires that all arrivals complete a health declaration form. Once the form is completed, passengers will receive a QR code that can be scanned at the airport for entry.
Hong Kong flight suspensions
According to Bloomberg, the penalty that enforces a seven-day route ban on flights that bring in three or more infected passengers, will also be eased. Starting May 1, the suspension will be reduced from seven to five days. And flights will only be suspended if five or more passengers test positive upon arrival, rather than three passengers.
Speaking to the news site, a government spokesperson said it was aware the ban had been "too harsh, leading to suspensions of different routes and easily disrupting the itineraries of people coming back to Hong Kong."
Local media reports that Hong Kong has suspended 23 flights already in April including Cathay Pacific routes from London, Manchester and Sydney; Emirates routes from Dubai and Bangkok; and KLM flights from Amsterdam because three or more people onboard had either tested positive upon arrival or didn't have the necessary health documentation with them.
The flight suspension policy makes planning a trip to Hong Kong difficult as routes can be suspended at short notice. To avoid the risk, airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have stopped flying to Hong Kong until later in the year.
Face masks and restrictions in Hong Kong
Masking up in Hong Kong is a must with face coverings required in outdoor and indoor public settings.
Restaurants reopened this week to allow in-person dining, gyms are open again, and the limit on public gatherings has been increased from two to four people per group.
Vaccine passes are required in most places including supermarkets, shopping malls, and restaurants.
You might also like:
Which US airlines have dropped mask mandates after the federal court ruling?
Visiting Venice? You'll soon need to pre-book to enter the city
The Well-Traveled Path: Returning to international travel with a purpose