Hong Kong is scrapping its five-day isolation rule for people who test positive for covid-19.
On Jan. 18, the major finance hub announced that, come Jan. 30, it will no longer require infected patients to quarantine. Edwin Tsui, the controller of the Centre for Health Protection, said asymptomatic people can go out freely or return to their workplace, but recommended that those showing symptoms stay home.
Hong Kong, which had one of the strictest lockdowns and testing requirements, made the call as it turned down the heat on covid-19, classifying it as a severe respiratory disease instead of an endemic one—a move China made on Jan. 8 as it took a U-turn on its relentless zero-covid policy of the past many months.
John Lee Ka-Chiu, Hong Kong’s chief executive, called it “one of the important steps towards normalcy.”
Hong Kong climbs out of its covid clampdown
A few weeks before the isolation requirement was dumped, mandatory PCR tests for arrivals and the city’s vaccine pass were both scrapped, scanning QR codes on the health app was no longer necessary, and the requirement to show rapid test results to access bars and banquets was also eliminated.
The easing of all these rules picked up momentum on the back of robust vaccination rates. Industries like retail and tourism, which were crippled over the last three years, will take time to recover entirely—but this is a start.
Charted: Majority of Hong Kong has been vaccinated three times
Tracking covid-19 in Hong Kong
In addition to quarantine, rules around reporting new cases are also changing.
Infected people no longer have to file their personal test results with authorities. The Hong Kong government will only collect and share data on PCR tests and related deaths from Jan. 30 onwards.
Quotable: Keeping an eye on covid-19
“A new mode of managing the disease doesn’t mean we give up anti-epidemic efforts. Coronavirus is more infectious, requires different vaccines and treatment, than influenza. We should not weaken people’s vigilance by equating it with flu.” –Lo Chung-mau, Secretary of Health for the government of Hong Kong
The covid-19 rules that’re staying in Hong Kong
😷 The mask mandate (both indoors and outdoors). The government hopes to lift the restriction in March or April, when the weather is warmer.
🧪 Daily rapid tests for students until the end of February at least. Teachers and other staff can stop on Jan. 30.
📜 A negative PCR test result is required for travelers between the mainland and Hong Kong.
What will happen to Hong Kong’s quarantine facilities?
The government built 9 facilities with 40,000 beds. Currently, only two are in use. With no mandatory isolation, the number of occupants will dwindle further. Ideas being floated for these facilities include turning them into dormitories for cross-border workers, homes for singles or small families, or repurposed into offices or training centers for healthcare workers.
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