Hong Kong to Lift Flight Ban on 9 Countries from April

Hong Kong wants to ease several anti-COVID-19 measures, including eliminating a ban on flights from nine countries from April, cutting quarantine time for international arrivals, and reopening schools.

The moves, announced on Monday by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, may assuage some citizens’ dissatisfaction with the city’s rigorous policies, some of which have been in place for more than two years. The aircraft ban will be lifted on April 1, and the hotel quarantine period for arrivals might be reduced from 14 days to seven days if residents tested negative, Lam said at a press conference. She had earlier stated that the restrictions would be in effect until April 20.

After the Easter holidays, schools will resume face-to-face sessions on April 19, and public venues, including sports facilities, will reopen on April 21, she said.

The countries are Australia, Britain, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and the United States, Reuters reports.

Since 2020, Hong Kong’s border has been essentially closed, with only a few flights able to land and few individuals permitted to cross, thus isolating a city that had earned a reputation as a global financial center. Residents found it extremely difficult to return to the Chinese-controlled zone, with many “washing out” in neighboring nations for two weeks before being able to return.

The laws, combined with the government’s inconsistent message about whether or not a citywide lockdown and mass testing will take place, have prompted a huge flight of citizens in the last two months. More than 54,000 people have left Hong Kong this month, compared to more than 71,000 in February and over 17,000 in December before the pandemic’s fifth wave arrived, raising concerns for the city’s long-term competitiveness.

Businesses and the city’s economy are suffering as a result of widespread closures, while doctors say many of the city’s 7.4 million citizens, particularly those from low-income families, are dealing with escalating mental health difficulties.

A proposal to do mass coronavirus testing would be put on hold, according to Lam, who cited experts who stated now was not the right moment. While the former British colony has officially followed mainland China’s “dynamic zero” coronavirus policy, which aims to prevent all outbreaks, it has been turning to mitigation tactics as the number of deaths has risen.

Due to a huge number of elderly who were unvaccinated when the highly transmissible Omicron variant ripped through care facilities since February, Hong Kong has recorded the greatest deaths per million people globally in recent weeks — more than 24 times that of rival Singapore. Since the pandemic began, the densely populated metropolis has seen over 1 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths, most of which occurred in the last month.

According to health experts, as many citizens have contracted the virus and isolated themselves at home without telling authorities, as many as 4 million people could be afflicted.

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