Boarding, quarantine rules adjusted

The Government today announced that it will adjust boarding and quarantine arrangements for people arriving from overseas places.   The Food & Health Department explained that starting April 14, the Government began implementing the tightened commercial flight suspension mechanism to address the risk of importation of mutant strains of COVID-19 from very high-risk places.   The Government also announced a plan to shorten the quarantine period for fully vaccinated people arriving from places overseas that are not considered high risk on the basis of the vaccine bubble.   The criteria under the tightened flight suspension mechanism include three or more (originally five or more) passengers on a passenger flight arriving at Hong Kong confirmed to have COVID-19 by arrival tests or two or more passengers on any two flights of the same airline from the relevant original port within a seven-day period (originally three or more on two consecutive flights) confirmed to have COVID-19 by arrival tests.   The bureau pointed out that a newly added place-specific flight suspension mechanism took effect in parallel.   If five or more passengers among all flights from the same place, regardless of airline, are confirmed by arrival tests for COVID-19 with the N501Y mutant strain within a seven-day period, the Government would prohibit all passenger flights from that place from landing in Hong Kong for 14 days.   At the same time, the Government would specify that place as an extremely high-risk place to restrict people who have stayed there for more than two hours from boarding passenger flights for Hong Kong for 14 days.   After 14 days, the relevant place would be specified as a very high-risk place, and passenger flights to Hong Kong from that place could resume while people in the relevant place who fulfilled boarding requirements could also board for Hong Kong.   However, they must undergo compulsory quarantine for 21 days upon arrival, and the shortened quarantine period for fully vaccinated people set out below would not be applicable.   To implement such arrangements, the grouping of boarding and compulsory quarantine arrangements will be adjusted.   The bureau noted that subject to the development of the epidemic and actual situation, the Government, in the first half of May, plans to specify Brazil, Ireland, South Africa, and the UK as very high-risk places or Group A2 specified places. These four places are currently classified as extremely high-risk places.   As for India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines, from which there had been numerous imported cases including many with the mutant virus strain, they will also be described as Group A2 specified places.   Subject to the importation of cases and mutant virus strains from Group A2 specified places, the Government will specify the relevant place as an extremely high-risk place or Group A1 specified place in accordance with the aforementioned suspension mechanism as appropriate.   On continued observation of the epidemic situation of a relevant place, including case incidence and vaccination progress, the Government may also consider lowering the specification of a specific place to a high-risk place or Group B specified place where appropriate.   Regarding quarantine arrangements for fully vaccinated people, the Government will supplement new arrangements applicable to such individuals and shorten the compulsory quarantine period from 21 days to 14 days under the “vaccine bubble” concept.   For low-risk Group D specified places, such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, the compulsory quarantine period for fully vaccinated people will be shortened from 14 days to seven days.   People who have completed quarantine under the adjusted Group B, Group C and Group D requirements will be required to self-monitor for seven days and undergo compulsory testing after their shortened quarantine.   The bureau emphasised that the Government will announce the adjusted arrangement and exact grouping of places after finalising the details. Such arrangements will be gazetted in late April or early May.
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