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The USA, UAE, Malaysia and 12 more countries will be deemed high-risk when entering Hong Kong. 

Just two weeks after Hong Kong announced a streamlining of travel restrictions for inbound travellers to the SAR that initially offered hope for business and leisure travel to resume in the Territory, the Hong Kong government announced Monday (16 August) it would downgrade 15 previously medium-risk countries to high-risk. While Australia previously deemed low-risk has moved into the medium-risk category. 

The Delta variant was cited as the reason for the change in policy.

"The global COVID-19 epidemic situation is under serious threat from the Delta variant, with acute surges in the number of confirmed cases within a short period of time in many countries," a Government spokesperson said in a press release. "After considering a basket of factors, the Government has decided to upgrade the risk grouping of 16 overseas places to impose more stringent boarding, quarantine and testing requirements on relevant inbound travellers in order to uphold the local barrier against the importation of COVID-19," he continued. 

The full list of countries on the high-risk group to Hong Kong taking effect August 20 now include:

  1. Brazil,
  2. India,
  3. Indonesia,
  4. Ireland,
  5. Nepal,
  6. Pakistan,
  7. The Philippines,
  8. Russia,
  9. South Africa,
  10. United Kingdom, 
  11. Bangladesh,
  12. Cambodia,
  13. France,
  14. Greece,
  15. Iran,
  16. Malaysia,
  17. The Netherlands,
  18. Spain,
  19. Sri Lanka,
  20. Switzerland,
  21. Tanzania,
  22. Thailand,
  23. Turkey,
  24. United Arab Emirates, and
  25. United States of America.

Only Hong Kong residents from high-risk countries are allowed to enter the SAR where vaccinated residents will have to undergo a 21-day quarantine in a designated hotel. While unvaccinated residents trying to return would need to undergo a 21-day washout period from countries in group B.

Meanwhile, experts at the Centre for Health Protection recommended on Monday extending quarantine arrangements for medium and low-risk countries to 14 days. The current regulations allow for a returnee to have their stay shortened to seven days if they have been vaccinated and test positive for antibodies. 

Professor David Hui, who chairs the scientific committee on emerging and zoonotic diseases explained that there is data to show that perhaps 10-days of quarantine would be sufficient there is still a 2% risk.

"The government is not prepared to accept this 1-2% risk of leaking cases into the community," he said. "That means seven days hotel quarantine would be insufficient ... Therefore changing to 14 days of hotel quarantine for the time being would be more prudent." 

Photo / 123RF