Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Hong Kong, China to ease some commercial COVID-19-related restrictions Sept. 4. Travel entry bans, quarantine rules remain in place. 

Alert Begins 02 Sep 2020 05:15 PM UTC
Alert Expires 10 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC

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

Summary
Following a decrease in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity, Hong Kong authorities have announced the relaxation of some commercial restrictions effective Sept. 4. Officials will permit some facilities, including gyms, massage parlors, and some sports venues to reopen, though venues are required to ensure social distancing measures. Restaurant closing times will be pushed back to 2200 from 2100. Authorities may further relax controls in the coming days if the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to decrease.

Current measures require residents to wear protective face coverings in all public outdoor areas, on public transport, and in most indoor public areas. Public gatherings of more than two people remain banned outside of certain sports facilities, where gatherings of up to four people will be authorized beginning Sept. 4. Some nonessential businesses, such as bars, swimming pools, and bathhouses, will remain closed. Officials are encouraging workers in the public and private sectors to work from home when possible. Many businesses are implementing enhanced social distancing practices at their facilities to limit employee exposure to COVID-19. Increased absenteeism may continue, especially for employees who work in Hong Kong but live in mainland China. Most schools remain closed; however, in-person classes are scheduled to resume on Sept. 23.

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

Travel Restrictions
All nonresident foreign nationals remain prohibited from entering the territory. Travelers from Macau, Taiwan, and mainland China can enter Hong Kong, provided they have no recent travel history elsewhere. Hong Kong has designated Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa, and the US as high risk due to COVID-19 transmission. Permitted passengers arriving from these locations must provide several documents, including proof of a negative COVID-19 result from a test taken within 72 hours prior departure and a hotel reservation for the entire quarantine period before boarding flights. All arriving travelers must undergo COVID-19 testing upon arrival and self-quarantine for two weeks; officials may quarantine symptomatic passengers or people testing positive for COVID-19 at government-designated facilities. 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.

Authorities are maintaining quarantine measures for sea and aircrews indefinitely. Under the new 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.

Authorities could reimpose, extend, further ease, or otherwise amend any restrictions with little-to-no notice depending on disease activity over the coming weeks.

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. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

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. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

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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