Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Hong Kong, China to ease some COVID-19 restrictions from Sept. 11. Travel entry bans, quarantine rules remain in place.

Alert Begins 08 Sep 2020 02:48 PM UTC
Alert Expires 22 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
Amid decreasing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity, Hong Kong authorities plan to relax some gathering and commercial restrictions from Sept. 11. Officials will permit public gatherings of up to four people, as well as for restaurants to seat groups of four people at a time, though they must close by 2200. Currently, officials only allow public gatherings of up to two people, with groups of four people permitted at certain sports facilities. Authorities will allow some indoor and outdoor recreation facilities, including additional sports venues and game centers, to reopen. The government may relax more restrictions in the coming weeks if caseloads continue to decrease.

Current measures require residents to wear facemasks in all public outdoor areas, on public transport, and in most indoor public areas. While authorities have allowed some facilities, such as gyms, massage parlors, and some sports venues to reopen, others, including bars, swimming pools, and bathhouses, remain closed. The government is requiring reopened venues to ensure social distancing measures. 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 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 to 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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