Flight ban to be lifted for HK residents who are stranded in U.K. and Ireland from 7th May

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4th May 2021 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong residents who are still stranded in the U.K. may return to Hong Kong soon. The government announced that it will lift the flight ban for Hong Kong residents who are stranded in Ireland and the U.K. from Friday (7th), allowing local inbound flights to resume and allow Hong Kong residents to board the plane and return to Hong Kong.

However, the relevant persons must undergo a 21-day compulsory quarantine at the designated quarantine hotel after arriving in Hong Kong, and undergo additional compulsory testing on the 26th day.

Since the end of last year, the government has announced that the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, and Ireland have been classified as extremely high-risk areas due to the detection of variant viruses in the different regions since the end of last year. The government announced today that considering that the epidemic in Ireland and the United Kingdom has stabilised and the vaccination rate is relatively satisfactory, if there is no major change in the local and local epidemic situation, the government plans to lift restrictions on boarding and entering Hong Kong from the local area from Friday.

However, those returning to Hong Kong from Ireland and the United Kingdom must obtain a virus-free certificate from a sample taken 72 hours before departure, plus a confirmation letter for booking a 21-night designated quarantine hotel room before boarding and coming to Hong Kong. After arriving in Hong Kong, arrivals must undergo a test at the airport to confirm that there is no infection before they can go through a 21-day compulsory quarantine at the designated quarantine hotel (at least 3 virus tests during the period).

After the compulsory quarantine is completed, persons must be tested again on 26th day after arrival.

Due to the epidemic situation in India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Brazil and South Africa, the relevant flight bans will continue to be maintained.

 Under the existing place-specific flight suspension mechanism, if among all passenger flights from the same place, regardless of airline, a total of five or more passengers were confirmed positive by arrival tests for COVID-19 with the N501Y mutant strain or relevant virus mutation within a seven-day period, or a total of 10 or more passengers were confirmed positive by any tests (including tests conducted during quarantine) with the N501Y mutant strain or relevant virus mutation within a seven-day period, the Government will invoke Cap. 599H to prohibit all passenger flights from that place from landing in Hong Kong, and will specify that relevant place as an extremely high-risk place (i.e. the existing Group A specified place) under Cap. 599H to restrict persons who have stayed in that place for more than two hours from boarding passenger flights for Hong Kong, so as to stop persons from the relevant place from travelling to Hong Kong via transit.

To implement the more targeted risk-based approach on boarding, quarantine, and testing arrangements for persons arriving at Hong Kong under the new direction in fighting the pandemic, the Government announced on 14th April the adjusted grouping of boarding and compulsory quarantine arrangements: places outside China will be categorised under Cap. 599H into the extremely high-risk Group A1 specified places (equivalent to the existing Group A specified places), the newly added very high-risk Group A2 specified places, as well as the existing high-risk Group B specified places, the medium-risk Group C specified places, and the low-risk Group D specified places.

The adjusted grouping that the Government plans to implement on 7th May is stated as follows.  The extremely high-risk Group A1 specified places will include India, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Philippines, the places where the place-specific flight suspension has been in effect since April, as well as Brazil and South Africa where the boarding restriction had been implemented earlier.  The very high-risk Group A2 specified places will include Ireland and the UK.  The specification for the high-risk Group B and medium-risk Group C specified places will remain unchanged.  Meanwhile, the low-risk Group D specified places will include Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.

Depending on the importation of cases and mutant virus strains from a place, the Government would specify that place as an extremely high-risk Group A1 specified place in a timely manner under the flight suspension mechanism mentioned above.  Subject to the development of the epidemic situation in the relevant place, when flights to Hong Kong from that place could resume, that place would be specified as a very high-risk Group A2 specified place, such that persons from the relevant place who fulfilled the boarding requirements could resume coming to Hong Kong, but they must be subject to compulsory quarantine in designated quarantine hotels for 21 days (undergoing at least three tests during the period) and compulsory testing on the 26th day.  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 high-risk place (Group B specified place) from very high-risk Group A2 specified place where appropriate.

Under the existing compulsory quarantine and testing arrangements, persons arriving at Hong Kong who have stayed in high-risk Group B specified places or medium-risk Group C specified places are both currently subject to compulsory quarantine in designated quarantine hotels for 21 days (undergoing at least three tests during the period).  As for persons arriving at Hong Kong who have stayed in low-risk Group D specified places, they are subject to compulsory quarantine in designated quarantine hotels for 14 days (undergoing at least two tests during the period) and compulsory testing on the 19th day of their arrival at Hong Kong.  However, based on the new direction in fighting the pandemic and the “vaccine bubble” concept as announced by the Chief Executive on 12th April, the Government is planning to suitably shorten the compulsory quarantine period, based on risk levels, for persons arriving at Hong Kong who have not stayed in extremely high-risk and very high-risk places, and who have been fully vaccinated.  The implementation date and details of the relevant measures will be announced separately.

The Government will gazette the relevant updated specifications under the Compulsory Quarantine of Certain Persons Arriving at Hong Kong Regulation (Cap. 599C), the Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation (Cap. 599E) and Cap. 599H to effect the above measures on the new specified places grouping and the lifting of the boarding restriction for Ireland and the UK on 7th May.

A Government spokesman said, “The Government will continue to closely monitor the situation, including the developments of the epidemic situation both globally and locally, vaccination progress, and changes in the volume of cross-boundary passenger traffic, and will further adjust the boarding and compulsory quarantine requirements for persons arriving at Hong Kong from places with different risks when necessary.”

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