The HKSAR government has relaxed most social distancing and inbound measures, except the mask mandate.
After a three-year-long impact of the global pandemic, Hong Kong has finally made big moves along the path to normalcy.
The HKSAR government has announced massive relaxations in the local anti-epidemic measures, and adjusted testing arrangements for inbound persons. Most social distancing and inbound measures have been relaxed, except the mask mandate.
Adjustments in Hong Kong's local anti-epidemic measures
- Lifting all restrictions and requirements in relation to the operation of catering premises, bars/pubs and scheduled premises, including the restriction on capacity, the maximum number of persons allowed in each group, distancing requirements between groups, closure of facilities such as steam and sauna facilities, and the headcount limit in banquet activities;
- Lifting the requirements to conduct rapid antigen tests (RATs) for (i) patrons of bars/pubs, (ii) patrons of clubs/nightclubs, (iii) participants in banquets, (iv) passengers of "cruise-to-nowhere" itineraries, (v) participants in local group tours, and (iv) staff of premises;
- Lifting the Vaccine Pass requirement, patrons will no longer be required to scan the vaccination record, medical exemption certificate or recovery record for entering the premises;
- Patrons/spectators/users may eat and drink in (a) performance venues, (b) cinema houses, (c) outdoor areas of places of public entertainment (including theme parks and racecourses), event premises and sports premises, as well as (d) mahjong-tin kau premises;
- The existing isolation arrangement for infected persons remains unchanged for now, but the quarantine arrangements for close contacts (including household members living with the infected persons) are ceased, as well as the requirement to cease defining close contacts and issuing quarantine orders to them. In other words, household members of infected persons will not be subject to mandatory quarantine and testing and they can go out on their will. The Government will suspend the distribution of anti-epidemic kits to close contacts and cease to announce the infection status of senior officials and staff of their offices;
- Lifting the restriction in relation to group gatherings in public places;
- Suspending the issuance of daily compulsory testing notices for residential buildings;
- For residential care homes, various existing testing arrangements will be maintained. All staff members of residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs) and residential homes for persons with disabilities (RCHDs) are required to conduct RATs daily and undergo a nucleic acid test every two days;
- Regardless of student vaccination rates, all secondary schools (including secondary sections of special schools) will resume whole-day face-to-face classes from 1 February 2023, while primary schools (including primary sections of special schools) and kindergartens will resume from 15 February 2023.
Hong Kong will maintain the mandatory mask-wearing requirements at this stage. A person must wear a mask all the time when the person is boarding or on board a public transport carrier, is entering or present in an MTR paid area, or is entering or present in specified public places, and at catering business premises and scheduled premises under Cap. 599F.
The mask-wearing requirement is only exempted for persons if:
- They are present in outdoor public places in country parks and special areas as defined in section 2 of the Country Parks Ordinance (Cap. 208);
- They are conducting strenuous physical activity (e.g. exercising or jogging) in outdoor public places;
- They are exercising in sports premises as well as fitness centres which meet the requirement on air change;
- During photo-taking on stage at events held at catering premises, bars/pubs and scheduled premises.
Head here to see the details of the mask-wearing requirements applicable to catering business premises and scheduled premises.
Some 80 community testing centres and stations (CTC/CTSs) in various districts across the city will continue to provide nucleic acid testing services for members of the public, including free nucleic acid testing service for persons undergoing voluntary testing; as well as self-paid nucleic acid testing service for persons who need to obtain test results (such as certifications for travelling purpose).
The Government said it will make every effort in ensuring that Hong Kong residents in need will be accorded priority in receiving medical services and drugs. Non-eligible Persons (NEP) (such as non-Hong Kong residents and travellers, etc.) will not be able to receive services at the designated clinics and through tele-consultation services provided by the Hospital Authority. NEP with genuine urgent medical needs are required to pay for the treatment fees according to the established mechanism to be gazetted to get urgent treatment and services.
As regards COVID-19 vaccines, Hong Kong residents have already been accorded priority to receive free Comirnaty bivalent vaccine and the paediatric and toddler formulation of the Comirnaty vaccine.
For Comirnaty ancestral strain and the Sinovac vaccines, only non-Hong Kong residents who can prove to have met the specified staying requirement (i.e. staying for at least 30 days) are eligible for receiving the relevant vaccines as boosters free of charge.
Non-Hong Kong residents visiting Hong Kong for a short term of stay will not be allowed to receive free vaccination under the Government's vaccination programme. They would be able to receive Comirnaty bivalent vaccine at private medical institutions at their own expense in the near future.
Adjustments of inbound measures
The Government has also standardised pre-departure testing requirements.
All inbound persons (aged three or above on the date of arrival at Hong Kong), regardless of being from the Mainland, Macao, Taiwan or overseas places, are required to conduct an RAT within 24 hours, or undergo a polymerase chain reaction-based nucleic acid test within 48 hours, prior to the scheduled time of flight departure (for those entering Hong Kong via the airport) or the scheduled time of arrival at Hong Kong (for those entering Hong Kong via other boundary control points), and obtain a negative result for entering Hong Kong.
Upon receiving the test results, relevant persons should keep the photos showing the test results or the test report for 90 days for presentation for checking on request by Government personnel. They may also voluntarily declare the test result via the Department of Health's electronic health declaration form. For arrival via Hong Kong International Airport, the health declaration is valid for 96 hours; for arrival via land control points, the health declaration is valid for 24 hours.
All inbound persons must pass temperature checks upon arrival. Those found with symptoms will be referred to the Department of Health for further handling.
The Government has lifted all existing nucleic acid testing requirements applicable to inbound persons. In other words, inbound persons are no longer required to undergo any post-arrival nucleic acid tests upon arrival in Hong Kong.
All inbound persons are advised to conduct daily RATs using self-arranged RAT kits during the period between the day of arrival (i.e. Day 0) and Day 5 after arrival at Hong Kong. They may voluntarily report their RAT results and health status via the Electronic COVID-19 Monitoring & Surveillance System (eCMSS).
The handling arrangements for inbound persons tested positive align with that those local cases. Relevant persons should provide information to the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health through the online platforms (for nucleic acid tests or RATs) as early as possible.
In alignment with the cessation of implementation of the Vaccine Pass arrangement, the arrangement for inbound persons to obtain a Provisional Vaccine Pass has also ceased. The requirement for non-Hong Kong residents to be fully vaccinated for boarding a flight to Hong Kong from overseas places will remain unchanged for the time being. For non-Hong Kong residents (aged 12 or above on the day of arrival at Hong Kong) arriving from overseas places, only persons who have fulfilled the vaccination requirement are allowed to board a flight to Hong Kong. Unvaccinated children aged 11 or below, regardless of being Hong Kong residents or not, are allowed to board for Hong Kong.
Isolation, quarantine and testing arrangements applicable to all persons who tested POSITIVE (including local and inbound persons) (*right click and select 'Open image in new tab' to see the image in a larger size):
Lead image / Unsplash
Infographic / COVID-19 Thematic Website