What do you need to get to Hong Kong? Many, many tests

Travelers to Hong Kong no longer need to quarantine in a hotel upon arrival.

But they will have to undergo a barrage of Covid tests.

They can go to work, take public transport and go to the supermarket, but for the first three days, travelers cannot enter “high-risk places” such as restaurants, bars and gyms.

Visitors planning an eight-day trip must take 12 tests – four PCR and eight rapid antigen tests – which amounts to an average of 1.5 tests per day.

Additionally, those who test positive must self-isolate in a community facility for at least a week.

Still, the relaxed rules are good news for city residents, who have faced hotel quarantine restrictions of up to three weeks at various times during the pandemic.

The news came the day after Hong Kong lost its No. 3 ranking on the Global Financial Centers Index, ceding its position to Singapore, which climbed three places – overtaking Hong Kong and Shanghai – to become Asia’s premier financial center.

The new rules

The new rulesstarting Monday, require that before leaving, travelers must:

  • Negative test via self-administered rapid antigen test
  • Report the test result in an online health statement
  • Obtain a QR code health declaration to present before departure and upon arrival
  • Be vaccinated to enter or have a medical certificate of exemption (if non-resident and aged 12 or over)

After arrival, travelers should:

  • Take a PCR test at the airport and then again on days 2, 4 and 6 (arrival date is day 0)
  • Perform rapid antigen tests daily from day 1 to day 7
  • Submit to three days of medical surveillance, during which they must avoid places such as restaurants, nightclubs and lounges
  • Follow a four-day self-monitoring period

A rush to leave, less interest in entering

Friday’s announcement sparked a flurry of interest in overseas flights, according to travel booking firm Expedia.

Searches for flights from Hong Kong to Japan were up 10x in the three days following the announcement, compared to the previous week, while searches for flights to Taiwan were up 12x in the same period , according to Expedia.

The top searches for flights made by travelers from Hong Kong on Expedia over the weekend were:

  1. Osaka, Japan
  2. Tokyo, Japan
  3. Seoul, South Korea
  4. Bangkok, Thailand
  5. Sapporo, Japan
  6. Taipei, Taiwan
  7. Taichung, Taiwan
  8. Singapore
  9. Fukuoka, Japan
  10. London, United Kingdom

However, interest in Hong Kong travel was much more lukewarm.

Expedia’s search data for accommodation in Hong Kong rose 50% over the weekend, compared to the week before the announcement.

Interest in going to Hong Kong was also not dominated by regional travellers. The United Kingdom, Canada and the United States were the main inbound markets, according to Expedia flight search data.

Pang Yiu-kai, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, acknowledged on Tuesday that the relaxed rules are expected to “primarily attract business travellers, family visitors and returning residents to Hong Kong”.

A step forward, but still behind

Removing hotel quarantines is a “step forward,” said Joseph Armas, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

But to really boost the city’s tourism and hospitality sector, Armas said the remaining regulations needed to be scrapped.

Japan is a recent example of a rule-laden reopening strategy that has attracted far fewer tourists than expected.

Japan announced on Thursday that travelers would be allowed to travel freely across the country from October 11, ending restrictions that were said to confuse travelers the most. On the same day, searches for flights to Japan almost doubled, according to data from Expedia.

Regina Ip, chairwoman of Hong Kong’s Executive Council, said the “next logical step” for Hong Kong is to scrap the three-day medical surveillance that prohibits travelers from dining in restaurants.

Ip said she expects the measures to be eased further next month after Hong Kong chief executive John Lee delivers his policy speech on Oct. 19.

Prelude to the reopening of China?

The easing of Covid-19 measures in Hong Kong has boosted hopes among Chinese residents that they may soon see rules eased as well.

China’s borders have been closed since March 2020 as the pandemic spreads globally.

Currently, travelers entering the country must quarantine in a centralized facility – such as a hotel – for seven days, followed by three more days at home before going out.

“Many businesses and residents in Hong Kong depend on the mainland, and round-trip travel is essential to their business,” Armas told CNBC’s “Squawkbox Asia” on Monday.

Hong Kong's Covid restrictions could be eased further next month, official says

While there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, China is unlikely to see a “significant easing” of Covid measures until next spring, chief Asia economist Andrew Tilton said. -Pacific at Goldman Sachs.

Elderly people in China still need “a series of reminders” and the government would like to make sure they have enough medicine, should another wave of Covid occur after the country reopens, he said. declared.

“China is a big country. We’re just one city…I’m not sure our approach can apply to the whole country,” Ip said.

There could, however, be good news for residents in China.

After almost three years, Macau is expected to reopen its borders to travelers from China in the coming weeks, Reuters reported.

The world’s largest gaming center has been hit hard by China’s zero Covid policy because its “major customer flows” are from the mainland, said Matthew Ossolinski, chairman of Ossolinski Holdings. When the borders between China and Macau reopen, “it will be interesting to see if there is a rush or a trickle, but there is huge pent-up demand,” he added.

Why China shows no signs of backing down from its strategy