Omicron: Hong Kong to shorten quarantine requirement for incoming travellers, extend social distancing measures for two weeks

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  • The city will cut its 21-day quarantine requirement to two weeks from February 5, given the shorter incubation period of the Omicron variant
  • Quarantine move comes after persistent complaints from travellers and companies paying high hotel costs for employees
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Beginning February 5, Hong Kong will shorten its 21-day quarantine requirement for incoming travellers to two weeks, given the much shorter incubation period of the Omicron variant. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Beginning February 5, Hong Kong will shorten its 21-day quarantine requirement for incoming travellers to two weeks, given the much shorter incubation period of the Omicron variant, the city’s leader has announced.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also said on Thursday that existing social-distancing curbs would remain in place for another two weeks until February 17. In-person school classes will remain suspended until February 21.

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The city’s daily Covid-19 caseload soared to 164 on Thursday, the most recorded in a single day since the pandemic began in January 2020.

“There are many invisible transmission links in the community, and we have raced to cut down these links,” she said. “That’s why we have resorted to quick and tough measures.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that the city’s social distancing restrictions would be extended until at least February 17. Photo: May Tse

The move to shorten the quarantine period came after persistent complaints from travellers and companies paying high quarantine costs for employees.

Currently, Hong Kong residents returning from 147 countries or places deemed high-risk are subject to 21 days of quarantine at designated hotels. Those arriving from 15 countries must isolate at the Penny’s Bay quarantine facility for four days before completing the rest of their quarantine at a hotel. Unvaccinated residents returning from medium-risk countries are also subject to the same.

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The isolation periods for vaccinated travellers from medium- and low-risk countries are 14 and seven days respectively. There are currently no countries deemed low-risk by the Hong Kong government.

Flights from eight major countries, including Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Britain and the United States have been banned since the start of the fifth wave of infections, to prevent more imported cases from slipping into the community.

Earlier this month, Hong Kong cut the quarantine period of Covid-19 patients’ close contacts from the previous 21 days to 14, citing reasons of pressure on the city’s quarantine facilities and the shorter incubation period of people carrying the Omicron variant.

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