Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Officials in Hong Kong, China, to add UK to list of high-risk travel countries from Oct. 1. Nonresident foreign nationals remain banned.

Alert Begins 24 Sep 2020 01:16 PM UTC
Alert Expires 02 Oct 2020 11:59 PM UTC
Categories Entry/Exit

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Hong Kong (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Heightened security, business and transport disruptions

Summary
Hong Kong authorities have announced that, effective from Oct. 1 onward, the UK will be added to a list of high-risk countries due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity. As of Sept. 24, Hong Kong continues to designate Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa, and the US as high-risk areas. Permitted passengers arriving from high-risk locations must provide several documents, including proof of a negative COVID-19 result from a test taken within 72 hours before departure, and a hotel reservation for an entire 14-day quarantine period, before boarding flights. These rules effectively apply to Hong Kong residents returning from high-risk locations, since all nonresident foreign nationals remain prohibited from entering Hong Kong. Additional countries are likely to be added to the high-risk locations list in the coming weeks.

Arriving travelers from areas that have not been designated as high-risk must undergo COVID-19 testing upon arrival in Hong Kong and self-quarantine for two weeks. Officials may quarantine symptomatic passengers or people testing positive for COVID-19 at government-designated facilities. Travelers from Macau, Taiwan, and mainland China can enter Hong Kong, provided they have no recent travel history elsewhere. Authorities have exempted some mainland Chinese teachers and students, as well as businesspeople whose activities officials deem economically beneficial to the territory, from the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

Officials in Hong Kong have extended internal gathering and commercial restrictions through at least Oct. 1. Officials continue to limit public gatherings to a maximum of four people. The government requires residents to wear protective facemasks in all outdoor and most indoor public areas and on public transport until further notice. Restaurants can open until 2359 daily. Entertainment businesses, including bars, amusement parks, swimming pools, and karaoke lounges, can operate provided they adhere to capacity limits and physical distancing requirements. Beaches remain closed. Officials could further extend restrictions depending on COVID-19 activity.

Hong Kong continues to restrict land border crossings with mainland China indefinitely. Authorized travelers are only permitted entry at the Shenzhen Bay checkpoint and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. Immigration processing centers at Ocean Terminal and Kai Tak Cruise Terminal remain closed. Increased absenteeism may continue, especially for employees who work in Hong Kong but live in mainland China.

Authorities are allowing some transit flights at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) if grouped in a single booking and the connection time is less than 24 hours. Airport Authority Hong Kong is permitting transit flights originating from mainland China through Oct. 15 under the same rules; transit flights to mainland China remain banned. Airlines have significantly reduced flights due to decreased demand, and further cancellations are likely.

Officials are maintaining quarantine measures for sea and aircrews indefinitely. Under the requirements, ships without cargo cannot exchange crews. On other ships, workers are no longer allowed to enter the territory and must travel directly to the airport after disembarking if completing their service onboard. Inbound ship crews and flight crew members will have to obtain a negative COVID-19 test result within 48 hours of departure for Hong Kong. Both airlines and shipping companies must arrange point-to-point transport for employees to limit interaction with the public.

Background and Analysis
COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by local health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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