Hong Kong lifts social distancing measures, nucleic acid testing upon arrival
John Lee, chief executive of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), announced on Wednesday that all social distancing measures will be lifted from Thursday.
Lee told a press conference that starting from Thursday, all social distancing measures, including outdoor gathering limits, will be lifted. The Vaccine Pass and nucleic acid testing upon arrival will be canceled. Quarantine orders will be axed and "close contacts" will no longer be defined. However, mask-wearing in public places will still be mandatory.
Travelers entering Hong Kong from overseas, and China's mainland, Macao and Taiwan will be exempted from compulsory nucleic acid tests upon arrival and during their stays. Instead, they are advised to do rapid antigen tests for five days in a row.
Lee said that the move comes amid a high vaccination rate in Hong Kong, where an overall barrier has been built against the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also said Hong Kong has a sufficient supply of effective anti-epidemic medicines, and its medical staff have accumulated rich experience in dealing with the epidemic. Also, Hong Kong's Hospital Authority has strengthened its capacity and ability in case of emergencies.
Furthermore, over the past three years, residents in Hong Kong have gained a better understanding of COVID-19 and on how to protect themselves, Lee added.
Lee stressed that in the future the HKSAR government will focus on preventing severe cases and deaths, as well as protecting high-risk groups, including children and the elderly.
These measures can greatly promote the recovery of Hong Kong, Lee said, adding that the HKSAR government will closely monitor the development of the epidemic.
Lo Chung-mau, health secretary of the HKSAR government, said that the aim of canceling all mandatory entry tests was to allow the financial hub to connect with the world and prepare for the resumption of normal travel between Hong Kong and the mainland.
Lo added that since it is the winter influenza season, the mask mandate is still in place to reduce the spread of respiratory infections.
(Cover: Travelers at the Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, South China, December 13, 2022. /CFP)