Hong Kong plans to relax its COVID measures next month, lifting the flight ban from nine countries, including Australia.
The city-state will also reduce quarantine time for international arrivals.
This was announced by Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam, following intense backlash from businesses and residents who saw the rest of the world opening back up.
The ban on flights from Australia, Britain, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and the United States will be lifted from 1 April.
“The flight ban is no longer timely and appropriate … it will bring huge disturbances to Hong Kong people who are stuck in these nine countries if we continue the ban,” Lam told a news briefing.
Arrivals will have to quarantine for 7 days, instead of 14 previously, if they tested negative, Lam said. This is a huge change as Hong Kong, at one point, had a three week quarantine period, which dissuaded many from returning to the city-state.
Speaking on the border re-opening was Hong Kong permanent resident and recent Aussie uni graduate, Ashton Prochazka.
He has been in Australia since the beginning of the pandemic and said he was “very happy and relieved” after hearing of the borders re-opening.
“It’s been a long time and I’m very eager to get home and see my family and friends,” Prochazka told Travel Weekly.
“I usually go home at least once a year around Christmas for a month and then these last two Christmas’ have been the only ones I haven’t spent in Hong Kong.”
Prochazka said that the three week quarantine period, which returners could endure if they wanted to return home prior to Hong Kong’s recent travel ban, would not make sense if he were to return home for a month over Christmas.
The Chinese ruled territory has been effectively shut since 2020 with very few flights landing and not many passengers allowed to fly.
As Omicron spread throughout the world, the government banned flights from the nine countries it recently announced it would re-open to.
Alongside the relaxing of travel restrictions, Lam announced she suspended plans to have every person in the city undergo PCR testing and moved the deadline to receive booster shots to 31 May.
Hong Kong’s approach to COVID has diverted from the stricter operations going on in mainland China.
Shanghai and Shenzhen remain in lockdown and there is mass testing to get COVID numbers back to zero.
The Chinese territory recorded more than 5,000 COVID deaths and over a million cases since January.
Hong Kong will join a series of other Asian locations relaxing travel restrictions.
Featured Image: YouTube/South China Morning Post