Hong Kong, along with mainland China, is one of the few places in the world still pursuing a zero-Covid policy. The city’s priority is reopening borders with the mainland, not the rest of the world, Hong Kong authorities have said.
That means most non-residents are banned from entering, while almost all overseas arrivals must undergo 21 days of quarantine — even if they are fully vaccinated.
Hong Kong deems travelers from the United Kingdom as a high-risk for the Omicron variant, subject to its most stringent quarantine and testing measures — which include spending the first four days at a government camp.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people including more than 20 restaurant staff deemed close contacts of the positive cases have been sent to the government camp for 21 days of isolation and extensive testing. Any positive results would mean a transfer to hospital.
Anyone who attended the same premises as the positive cases at roughly the same time in recent days has also been ordered to take a test, while several residential buildings linked to the cluster have been temporarily locked down for mass testing.
As fears of local Omicron transmission grow, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday that resumption of normal travel between the city and mainland China will “have to wait for another while.”
According to Hong Kong authorities, the minimum isolation period for anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 — even if they are asymptomatic — is nearly a month. They must stay in the hospital for at least 10 days and are not allowed to leave until they test negative twice in succession — however long it takes.But even testing negative twice doesn’t mean you can go home. After that, those under confinement orders are transferred to an isolation facility for a further 14 days.
Instead, Hong Kong has relied on limiting group gatherings, mandatory masks in public, tracking, tracing, testing and confining close contacts and suspected cases — plus its tough border and quarantine measures.
In a statement on December 29, the Hong Kong government reiterated its stringent measures are here to stay — including its own large-scale quarantine facility.
“Recently, the global epidemic situation has worsened considerably due to the Omicron variant,” the statement said. “The Government has to stay vigilant to prevent a fifth wave epidemic or outbreak in the community. After reviewing the situation holistically and prudently, the Government deems it necessary to reserve all rooms at the PBQC [Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre] for meeting the quarantine purpose.
“Despite the city’s success in keeping Covid-19 at bay, experts say long quarantine periods often come at a cost to the mental health of those confined.