HONG KONG: Hong Kong plans to ease some COVID-19 measures in April, lifting a ban on flights from nine countries, reducing quarantine time for arrivals from abroad and reopening schools.
The moves, announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Monday (Mar 21), could quieten some criticism from residents who have become increasingly frustrated with the city’s stringent measures.
These were put in place after the highly transmissible Omicron variant emerged in January, with the restrictions initially covering eight countries deemed high-risk – including the United States, Britain, France and India – and later Nepal.
“The circuit-breaker … is inopportune now,” Lam said during a press conference.
“The epidemic situations in those countries are not worse than Hong Kong’s, and most arrivals did not have serious symptoms. To extend the circuit breaker will add to concerns and anxieties of Hong Kong residents stranded there.”
The current 14-day hotel quarantine for travellers will be reduced to seven days, provided they test negative on the sixth and seventh day of their stay.
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A plan to carry out mass coronavirus testing would be put on hold, Lam added, citing experts who said it was not a suitable time.
Her administration has been pummelled for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis, for putting out unclear messages about proposed mass testing and lockdown measures.
Fear of being caught in a sudden lockdown fuelled panic – causing residents to strip supermarket shelves bare – and led to a record high exodus of both foreign and local residents.
By mid-March, Hong Kong recorded a net outflow of more than 134,000 people leaving the city.