Hong Kong Adds COVID Restrictions to Be 'More In Line' With China, Despite No Outbreaks

Hong Kong has not had any major COVID-19 outbreaks in recent months, but plans to consolidate restrictions to better comply with China's policies.

Since the beginning of the year, Hong Kong has not had a large outbreak and virtually no local infections due to their closed international travel.

Stricter restrictions include the introduction of contact tracing. The government will require the use of the LeaveHomesafe app on government property to record the influx of visitors. Quarantine rules will exempt only emergency workers or people in essential industries. Those exempt from quarantine as of now are the airline crews, banking and insurance executives, public company directors, cargo or passenger ship crews.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam said tightening restrictions to be "more in line with mainland practices" is necessary to increase chances of quarantine-free travel.

Currently, visitors from high-risk countries like the U.S. must serve a 21-day quarantine. And those who travel from Hong Kong to the mainland have to undergo 14 days of quarantine in government-approved hotels, followed by home quarantine for seven days.

However, residents and non-residents who travel from the mainland to Hong Kong do not have a quarantine mandate. Instead, they must provide a negative coronavirus test prior to arrival.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Carrie Lam Hong Kong
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, wearing an arm brace after suffering fracture from fall at home, attends a press conference in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. Hong Kong will tighten COVID-19 restrictions despite a lack of local outbreaks to better align with China’s policies and increase chances of quarantine-free travel between the territory and mainland, Lam said Tuesday. AP Photo/Kin Cheung

Authorities say resuming quarantine-free travel with the mainland is the top priority, compared to reopening travel internationally.

"If Hong Kong were to loosen the border controls for people arriving from overseas or adopt what other countries have done … to live with the COVID-19 virus, then the chances of resuming travel with the mainland will be reduced," she said at a weekly news conference where she wore a brace after recently breaking her arm.

She dismissed concerns that Hong Kong's restrictions will make it less attractive as an international business hub. "Hong Kong's primary advantage lies in being the gateway to the mainland of China," she said.

The mainland government has maintained a zero-tolerance policy toward the pandemic, using lockdowns, quarantines and compulsory testing to stamp out COVID-19 outbreaks quickly.