Nicole Kidman’s quarantine exemption from Hong Kong government sparks backlash among locals

  • The Hollywood star arrived in the city to film the Amazon series “The Expats”
  • Many residents are frustrated the star was given an exemption because she came from Sydney, which has an outbreak of the Delta variant
Yanni Chow |

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Nicole Kidman arrived in Hong Kong to film a new series for Amazon, “The Expats”. Many are upset that she was granted an exemption from quarantine. Photo: Reuters

Australian actor Nicole Kidman has received an exemption from the Hong Kong government to skip quarantine upon her arrival in the city, sparking debate among residents, many of whom have been unable to travel for nearly two years.

Following her arrival from Sydney, the 54 year-old Hollywood Star was spotted filming and shopping around town. Photos online sparked so much debate that the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) issued a statement on Thursday afternoon to address enquiries over Kidman’s exemption.

Changes in quarantine rules cause disarray for travellers

Asked if Kidman had been granted any special permissions, the bureau said “the case in discussion has been granted permission to travel to Hong Kong with a quarantine exemption for the purpose of performing designated professional work, taking into account that it is conducive to maintaining the necessary operation and development of Hong Kong’s economy.”

While media reported that Kidman was spotted shopping around town - a potential violation of the terms of her exemption, which requires her to minimise contact with the public and have pre-determined, work-related itineraries - the authorities said that “no breach of the exemption conditions by the personnel concerned has been identified so far.”

Government adviser David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory medicine expert at Chinese University, said in an RTHK radio interview that the risks related to the quarantine exemption would depend on whether the movie crew is vaccinated or having Covid testing on a regular basis, and also whether they are working “point-to-point”; if the actress films in a mall, instead of shopping, then returns to her hotel afterwards - “point-to-point” - then the risk will be cut to a minimum.

Hui also stressed that power to grant such quarantine exemptions was the sole decision of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB).

Australia is battling an outbreak of the fast-moving Delta strain and reported its biggest one-day rise in Covid-19 infections on Thursday.

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Hong Kong has some of the most stringent coronavirus entry requirements globally, with arrivals from countries considered “high risk” mandated to undergo compulsory quarantine for 21 days in a designated quarantine hotel, even if they are vaccinated.

The measures have meant many residents have been unable to visit relatives or travel overseas for nearly two years, prompting a backlash over Kidman’s exemption.

Recently, even Hong Kong Olympians returning from the Tokyo Games, mostly fully vaccinated, were required to do seven days of quarantine in compliance with the existing government rules.

Vaccinated people with the Delta variant can still be highly contagious

The government this week said it was upgrading 15 overseas places, including the United States, Spain and France, to “high risk” from “medium risk,” meaning that only vaccinated Hong Kong residents are allowed to enter and must face a 21-day hotel quarantine on arrival.

The measures have sparked chaos for travellers, many of whom now need to extend their quarantine times and are desperately trying to rebook hotel dates and flights, with a limited supply available.

Australia was recently reclassified to “medium risk” from “low risk” beginning August 20, meaning that vaccinated arrivals need to quarantine for 14 nights. Without the exemption, Kidman would have had to do seven days of hotel quarantine.

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