With China recently announcing that it will be doing away with its notorious “zero-COVID” policy when dealing with the pandemic, Hong Kong has followed swiftly by declaring that it will be relaxing its COVID-19 management measures as well.
In addition, the city may be reopening their borders entirely very soon, which means that you’ll be able to go there and live out your TVB drama dreams soon.
And if you’re already planning your next trip there, here’s all you need to know.
What the Relaxed Measures Include
During a press conference held today (13 December), Chief Executive John Lee announced that the ban on international arrivals visiting bars or eating at restaurants would be lifted.
Individuals will no longer need to scan QR codes with their phones whenever entering venues, although some places may still require individuals to prove that they have been vaccinated before they enter the area.
However, he did not touch on whether or not Hong Kong will be lifting its mask mandate.
“All people want to have fewer restrictions as much as possible while ensuring activities socially and economically can proceed as much as possible,” he acknowledged.
Reopening of Borders Dependent on the Mainland
As for when the borders will be reopening, he explained that this would be dependent on the COVID-19 situation in Mainland China.
He said, “Of course, our goal is to resume normal travel as soon as possible, but we need to move this forward based on the actual situation.
“As we all know, there are a series of things the mainland needs to consider, including the Covid-19 situation, the number of confirmed cases and other related facilities.”
However, local media has reported that quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and Mainland China may begin as early as January.
This will mark the first time in three years that travellers can travel between the two regions without needing to undergo quarantine.
According to local media outlet HK01, a speculated date for the borders between Hong Kong and Mainland China to reopen fully is 9 January 2023.
Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Hong Kong
As a prominent financial hub in Asia, Hong Kong has taken a considerable hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic,
In particular, the city’s gross domestic product (GDP) has contracted two times over the past three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, with economists predicting that it will contract again this year.
Also, travel restrictions caused by COVID-19 caused the Hong Kong tourism industry to be affected gravely.
For example, there were only 250,000 arrivals from January to September this year, compared to how there were over 46 million arrivals during the same period in 2018.
Apart from that, the population size in Hong Kong from June of last year to this year has also seen the sharpest decrease in the past 60-over years as many individuals flew out of the city to escape the stringent restrictions.
Reopening of Hong Kong to Improve Current Economy
Since Hong Kong’s announcement, analysts have also expressed that the reopening of Hong Kong’s borders and easing of COVID-19 measures will bring about positive economic impacts.
However, they also acknowledged that a more substantial impact would be brought about when Mainland China reopens its borders.
Ms Michelle Lam, a Greater China economist at Societe Generale, also said that the “real shift” will occur when China’s borders are reopened to the world and said that this shift might happen soon.
Economists from Goldman Sachs Group also echoed similar sentiments. They even predicted that Hong Kong’s GDP would increase by 7.6% due to an increase in income from exports and tourism, making them one of the stakeholders that benefit the most from China’s decision to move away from its zero-COVID policy.
DBS Bank economist Samuel Tse also agreed that Hong Kong would benefit significantly from reopening its borders, citing factors such as an increase in inbound tourism.
And it seems like things are indeed starting to look positive for the Hong Kong economy for now, with the value of the MSCI Hong Kong Index increasing by 1.5% in the stock market after the announcement to relax the COVID-19 measures was made.
The stock value of various Hong Kong mall operators, such as Wharf Real Estate Investment Co and Jardine Matheson Holdings, rose, while that of Cathay Pacific Airways soared by 5.2%.
Press Briefing to be Held
Mr Lee also mentioned that a press briefing will be held later today (13 November), and details regarding the relaxation of Hong Kong’s COVID-19 measures will be released then.
Before this announcement, Mr Lee had previously announced on Sunday (11 November) that a complete review of the city’s COVID-19 measures would be carried out. This includes the Leavehomesafe app that the city has employed to use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, it was declared last week that the isolation period for individuals who contract COVID-19 and their close contacts would be reduced.
On the other hand, the number of rapid COVID-19 tests taken by inbound travellers will be reduced by two.
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