Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Officials to ease social distancing restrictions in Hong Kong, China, from May 8. Entry ban for foreign nationals ongoing.

This alert affects Hong Kong SAR

This alert began 05 May 2020 09:13 GMT and is scheduled to expire 25 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Hong Kong (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Heightened security, mandatory quarantine measures, partial border closure, business and transport disruptions

Summary
Hong Kong officials plan to ease social distancing measures amid reduced coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity from 0001 May 8. Authorities will ban groups of more than eight people, with exceptions for weddings, funerals, and government functions. Gyms, cinemas, saunas, bars, beauty shops, and massage parlors can resume operations under the loosened restrictions, provided they adhere to social distancing guidelines. Restaurants will be allowed to seat up to eight people, while bars must operate at half capacity and seat no more than four people per table. Nightclubs and karaoke lounges will remain closed. Businesses must continue to conduct temperature checks on patrons. Those found violating the orders could face a fine of HKD 50,000 (USD 6,450) and six months in jail.

The government resume normal operating hours for public services May 4. However, many businesses are implementing work-from-home policies and splitting teams to increase social distancing. Increased employee absenteeism will very likely continue, particularly for employees who reside in mainland China. Schools will begin to reopen May 27 for senior secondary students followed by younger secondary students June 8 and June 15.

Hong Kong continues to restrict land border crossings with mainland China to the Shenzhen Bay checkpoint and along the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. Immigration processing centers at Ocean Terminal and Kai Tak Cruise Terminal remain closed. Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) remains open, though airlines have significantly reduced flights due to decreased demand, and further cancellations are likely.

Travel Restrictions

A ban on all nonresident foreign nationals from entering or transiting the territory remains in place indefinitely. Travelers from Macau, Taiwan, and mainland China may enter Hong Kong, provided they have no recent travel history elsewhere; arriving travelers must self-quarantine for two weeks until at least June 7. Authorities are permitting cross-border teachers and students, as well as businesspeople whose activities officials deem economically beneficial to the territory, to enter Hong Kong without having to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

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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