Hong Kong is readying for a surge in travel after the global financial hub ended mandatory COVID-19 hotel quarantine for international arrivals on Monday, with travel companies reporting 10-fold jumps in requests.
The curbs were lifted for the first time in more than 2-1/2 years after Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said last week that such arrivals could return home or seek accommodation of their choice, but had to self-monitor for three days on entry.
Hong Kong reported 4,034 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and 12 more virus-related deaths, health authorities said.
All international arrivals in the special administrative region were previously required to stay for as long as three weeks in hotel quarantine, though the period was gradually cut to three days.
Under the new rules, international arrivals are barred from bars and restaurants for three days. Although allowed to go to work and school, they still need to do multiple COVID tests in the first week after arriving.
Still, Hong Kong’s Travel Industry Council expects outbound travel to surge as much as 50 percent for the next few months, executive director Fanny Yeung told public broadcaster RTHK.
Travel website Expedia Hong Kong said searches for Japan surged to 10 times last week while those Trip.com said flight searches surged 95 times and orders soared 50 percent on its Hong Kong site on the week, with Tokyo, Bangkok, Osaka and Singapore featuring as top destinations.
Residents landing at the city’s airport were thrilled by Monday’s easing.
“It’s now totally hassle-free, so I just came out within 30 minutes,” said businessman Marjuk Mutahlif, 32. “I can go.”
In a statement issued on Monday afternoon, the Centre for Health Protection said the new cases included 3,846 local infections and 188 imported ones. The 12 new deaths brought the city’s toll during the fifth wave to 9,915.
A CHP spokesman urged members of the public, especially the elderly, children, patients with chronic diseases, to get vaccinated, saying the current vaccines are effective in preventing serious complications and even deaths if they get infected.
He also stressed the importance of complying with social distancing rules, including not taking part in unnecessary or crowded activities, to prevent the spread of the virus in the community.
In a separate statement, the Hospital Authority said that there were 2,039 COVID patients receiving treatment in hospitals, including 161 new admissions. The HA also said 41 COVID-19 patients were in critical condition – 15 of them were in intensive care – and 43 in serious condition.