Recently, a number of major sports events in Hong Kong have been canceled and taken over by neighboring countries. The finger was pointed at Hong Kong’s strict immigration quarantine policy. Different members of the trade and medical experts have publicly urged the government to relax the policy and implement the “0+7” scheme as soon as possible.
As the Hong Kong government planned to hold the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit and the Hong Kong rugby sevens in November, demonstrating Hong Kong’s re-engagement with the international community, the government had originally planned to announce a relaxation of the boarding and quarantine arrangement at the end of September or by Oct. 19 the current planned date for John Lee to deliver his Policy Address.
Relaxing the quarantine policy for inbound travelers to “0 +7” mode means no mandatory hotel quarantine but only medical supervision at home or other self-arranged premises for 7 nights is needed, during which the supervised holding the Provisional Vaccine Pass with the Amber Code cannot enter restaurants and bars.
On Sept. 23 John Lee said the quarantine requirement for inbound travelers will be relaxed to 0+3 from Monday, Sept. 26 and unvaccinated residents will be allowed entry. Also, negative RAT tests within 24 hours of boarding will be allowed in place of negative PCR results.
However, the recent cancellation of several major sports events and the intention of Royal Caribbean International to abandon the relaunch of the high sea cruise in Hong Kong, as well as other events, have led to the government’s intention to bring forward the relaxation of the quarantine policy.
Among the events, “Hong Kong 10K Championships 2022” was originally scheduled to be held on Aug. 28, with a total of 2,500 participants. However, on Aug. 24, the Hong Kong Association of Athletics Affiliates (HKAAA) issued a statement to announce that it had been notified by the government that a drastic cut of the quota of participants is required due to the recent worsening epidemic situation. After thorough consideration, the HKAAA decided to cancel the race.
The World Dragon Boat Racing Championships scheduled to be held in Hong Kong in 2021 was postponed until August 2023 due to the pandemic, but the International Dragon Boat Federation held an Extraordinary Congress on Sept. 17, and officially moved the tournament to Thailand, because the current Hong Kong’s quarantine policy for inbound travelers is still tighter than other countries.
The HKAAA which announced the cancellation of the 25th Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon issued another statement on Sept. 20 to announce that after further communication with the government, the marathon is “fully supported” by the government and they actively plan to re-launch the event on Feb. 12, 2023. However, Singapore will hold the Standard Chartered Marathon as scheduled in December.
Hui Ching-yu, the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury was asked by the media about the competition with Singapore on Sept. 20. He replied, “Hong Kong has never been afraid of competition. I am only concerned that it will submit to failure without putting up a fight.” He stressed that it is necessary to continuously improve its competitiveness. He said the government was making every effort to prepare for the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit and the FinTech Week in November.
Kong Yuk-foon, a member of the Legislative Council who criticized Hong Kong’s anti-epidemic policy as an obstacle to society resuming normalization in recent months, pointed out on Sept. 19 that there will be more than 600 meetings and exhibitions of various types held in Singapore from September to December this year, covering a wide range of topics, and dozens of those labeled as “Asian” and “Internationa,l, which made her “astounded” and criticized Hong Kong for “making concessions” and “taking it lying down.”
John Lee, the Hong Kong Chief Executive, only responded on Sept. 20 that the relaxation of the relevant measures was being studied, but did not disclose any details or timetable; sources have noted that the government intends to announce the “0+7” quarantine arrangement in September.
According to the current “3+4” quarantine arrangement, travelers and Hong Kong residents entering Hong Kong from overseas areas are required to meet vaccination requirements, such as having received two doses of BioNTech or Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine; and having a negative nucleic acid test result within 48 hours of boarding.
Upon arrival, a mandatory three-night quarantine at a designated quarantine hotel is required, during which rapid antigen testing has to be performed daily; on the second day of arrival, nucleic acid testing is performed at the designated quarantine hotel. Subsequently, medical supervision is undergone at home or other self-arranged premises for four nights, during which the supervised person holding the Provisional Vaccine Pass with the Amber Code is subject to restrictions, such as no access to restaurants; daily rapid antigen testing from the fourth to the seventh day of arrival; and nucleic acid testing on the fourth and sixth day of arrival.
Rapid antigen testing is performed daily from the eighth to the tenth day of arrival, followed by nucleic acid testing on the ninth day of arrival.
The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office (HKMAO): Adjustment Measures are not Unreasonable
On Sept. 20, John Lee said at a media session before the Executive Council meeting that the government was studying how to improve the quarantine arrangement for inbound travelers from the airport and would make a decision as soon as possible.
He declared that the government aims to let Hong Kong have the maximum connection with the international world and reduce the inconvenience to people caused by the quarantine measures.
When asked whether they would cancel the nucleic acid test requirements before arriving in Hong Kong, John Lee responded that he would consider different opinions.
On the same day, Chinese Communist Party officials talked about Hong Kong’s epidemic prevention policy for the first time. Huang Liuquan, the Deputy Head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), said at the press conference that Hong Kong and Macao have been severely affected by the epidemic for more than two years. Hong Kong’s epidemic prevention and control measures to adjust the situation in response to the epidemic are not unreasonable and do not need to be over-interpreted.
He also pointed out that the new Hong Kong government has stressed many times that connecting the world and resuming normal traveler clearance between Hong Kong and mainland China are not contradictory. The Hong Kong government will take charge of the prevention and control of the pandemic and economic and social development according to the pandemic in Hong Kong and globally.
Ng Chi-sum: Hong Kong Government Needs a Wakeup Call
Ng Chi-sum, a Hong Kong pundit, commented that the Hong Kong government has yet to wake up and still doubts whether the epidemic prevention policy will be relaxed fully “As Lo Chung-mau is the current Health Secretary, Hong Kong will certainly make concessions, and John Lee is not resolute enough.”
Ng described tourism, exhibitions, and hospitality as important economic pillars of Hong Kong, opening up a large number of employment opportunities. “But the money will not wait for people to get it. After leaving Hong Kong, it will never come back. Everyone in Hong Kong will be affected, and Hong Kong’s economy will collapse devastatingly.”