By Theodora Yu
Authorities in Hong Kong said Thursday that they will shorten mandatory quarantine requirements for incoming travellers from 21 days to 14, easing a policy that some say was chipping away at the city's status as an international financial hub.
Starting Feb. 5, all arrivals will be subjected to a 14-day hotel quarantine, followed by seven days of self-monitoring at home without curbs on their movements but with two days of mandatory testing. City Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the measures would "ensure consistencies" and were based on science after experts had found the omicron variant's incubation period to be "relatively short."
Hong Kong's 21-day quarantine has in recent months pushed businesses and expatriates to relocate, unwilling to bear the mental and financial cost of the restrictions.
It has also added to the cost of operating in Hong Kong, and Western chambers of commerce say the policy made city a less attractive place for businesses.
Hong Kong reported 164 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest in a single day since January 2020.
The government has been following a strict "dynamic zero infection" strategy since late December, a "mainland strategy requirement" to cut transmission chains and stop the virus from spreading.
Additional measures, such as flight bans on eight countries considered high-risk - including the United States and the U.K. - will be extended until Feb 18.
Social distancing curbs, including the closure of gyms, bars and salons, will remain in place for the next two weeks.
Starting from late February, vaccination passes will also be required to enter most indoor venues and government facilities.