HK quarantine exemption

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Currently, there are 36 and 12 categories of quarantine exemption in accordance with Cap. 599C and Cap. 599E respectively. These will be brought down to five and three categories respectively, effective 12 Nov.

The HKSAR has announced a sweeping tightening of quarantine exemption arrangements, with effect from 12 November 2021. Not only will a majority of quarantine-exempt categories be cancelled, but also monitoring of exempted categories will be stepped up, while also enforcing stricter self-isolation rules.

A Government spokesman said, "The new measures will strengthen the prevention of importation of cases and tackle the threat posed by mutant strains by further minimising the chance of transmission of the virus from imported cases into the community so as to foster favourable conditions for resuming cross-boundary travel with the Mainland and cross-border travel in future."

The new Hong Kong border control measures, applicable from 12 November, are detailed below.

#1 Cancellation of most quarantine-exempt categories

So far, HKSAR Government has exempted certain categories of persons from the compulsory quarantine requirement upon arrival in Hong Kong. Criteria for these caegories include that it is necessary for the normal operation of Hong Kong or governmental operation, protection of the safety of health of the people or serving the public interest.

Currently, there are 36 and 12 categories of persons exempted from quarantine in accordance with the relevant criteria under Cap. 599C and Cap. 599E respectively.

However, going forward, from 12 November, exemption arrangements for most categories of inbound travellers will be cancelled. "Only categories that are necessary to maintain the continuing functioning of the community and supply of necessities will be retained (i.e. cross-boundary goods vehicle/coach drivers, crew members of aircraft, sea crew of cargo vessels loading/unloading in Hong Kong, government officials, etc)," a statement said. 

What this means is the exemption categories in accordance with Cap. 599C and Cap. 599E will be significantly reduced to five and three categories respectively.

The following are the category of persons with quarantine exemption under Cap. 599C:

  1. Cross-boundary goods vehicle drivers and necessary accompanying personnel,
  2. Cross-boundary coach or shuttle drivers and crew members,
  3. Crew members of aircraft who need to commute to and from Mainland, Macao and Taiwan for the performance of necessary duties,
  4. Crew members of (i) goods vessels with cargo operation and (ii) goods vessels without cargo operation which have not called the ports of “Group A specified places” (High-risk) under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap. 599H) during the 21 days prior to arrival in Hong Kong purely for shipping services (excluding ship repair),
  5. Government officials carrying out governmental duties.

The following are the category of persons with quarantine exemption under Cap. 599E:

  1. Crew members of aircraft who need to commute to and from foreign places for the performance of necessary duties,
  2. Crew members of (i) goods vessels with cargo operation and (ii) goods vessels without cargo operation which have not called the ports of “Group A specified places” (High-risk) under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap. 599H) during the 21 days prior to arrival in Hong Kong purely for shipping services (excluding ship repair),
  3. Government officials carrying out governmental duties

For any person who does not fall under these categories and requires travel to Hong Kong with quarantine exemption, the Government will only consider the case on an individual exceptional basis under stringent scrutiny.

The only exceptions, per the spokesperson, include: "Exemption arrangements for cross-boundary goods vehicle drivers going between the Mainland and Hong Kong, freight crew and passenger crew members of aircraft and sea crew for cargo operation on vessels in Hong Kong are necessary for ensuring an uninterrupted supply of goods and daily necessities and maintaining necessary economic activities."

In addition, Chief Secretary for Administration, John Lee, shared at a media session, that so far, two cases have been found in which the consular staff or their family members were infected, adding to ongoing concerns about the spread of the Delta virus. 

He explained: "That is why we have decided to retain only those classes of people who are so closely related to the daily running of society and the necessities of society, and for governmental functions to continue.

"We are doing this to ensure that the risk is reduced to the minimal, because as you can see, the cases that occurred in Hong Kong (these days) are imported cases, and we have to ensure that the risk of the whole society being affected by such infected cases is kept to the minimum."

For all others, i.e. those serving quarantine, requirements continue to be in place around repeated regular testing and strict restriction on the location of self-isolation or movement so as to adhere to the principle of closed-loop management. These conditions have been tightened on multiple occasions based on risk assessment.


#2 Self-isolation requirement at DQHs for consular and diplomatic officers

Per the current policy, government officials carrying out governmental duties is one of the exemption categories. These officials include consuls general or equivalent of the consulates general in Hong Kong and their immediate family members.

At present, except for consuls general or representatives in Hong Kong at equivalent/higher level, all other government officials carrying out governmental duties who have stayed in overseas places during the 21 days prior to arrival in Hong Kong must be subject to self-isolation at their accommodation upon arrival in Hong Kong. Not only are they not allowed to leave this location, but they must also undergo repeated testing during this period.

Starting from 12 November, these categories (i.e. consular and diplomatic officers - except for consuls general or representatives in Hong Kong at equivalent/higher level) must be self-isolation at designated quarantine hotels (DQHs). Home isolation will no longer be allowed.

As for consuls general or representatives in Hong Kong at equivalent/higher level, they must be subject to self-isolation at their accommodation.

The spokesperson said, "The exemption status and the itineraries of the consular and diplomatic officers carrying out governmental duties are determined by their official capacity and relevant official duties with a view to safeguarding normal operation of the governments."

The Government has issued letters to the respective consulates general to urge relevant persons to strictly comply with the exemption conditions.


#3 Stricter monitoring of quarantine-exempt travellers

At present, the relevant policy bureaux or departments monitor the compliance with exemption conditions by the exempted persons under their sponsorship. Each relevant policy bureaux or departments have designated co-ordinators specifically tasked to monitor the exempted persons concerned.

However, the Food and Health Bureau (FHB) has requested the relevant bureaux or departments to adopt a checklist to record that the exempted persons under restricted activities have complied with the requirements of various guidelines.

As such, the Government will strengthen monitoring on all exempted persons with a view to minimising the chance of transmission of the virus from imported cases.

The Goverment spokesperson shared, "The respective organisation must take every practicable measure to ensure that the exempted persons comply with all exemption conditions. Any breach of exemption conditions will result in revocation of the exemption status and the relevant persons will be transferred to the quarantine centres for compulsory quarantine. In addition, exempted persons are subject to medical surveillance during the exemption period."

Lead image / 123RF

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