Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Officials in Hong Kong, China, to further expand COVID-19 restrictions from July 29. Entry ban, quarantine rules ongoing.

  • Alert Begins: 27 Jul 2020 10:37 AM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 07 Aug 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
Hong Kong continues to expand restrictions to counter an ongoing rise in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the territory. Authorities will ban public gatherings of more than two people from July 29. Officials will also expand a requirement for residents to wear face coverings in all outdoor public areas. Face coverings are already mandated on public transport and in indoor public areas, except office spaces. The government will also suspend dine-in services at all restaurants, though takeaway services are still allowed. The measures will remain in place through at least Aug. 7.

Authorities previously announced they would tighten quarantine measures for sea and aircrews indefinitely from July 29. 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.

Officials will also close sports venues and swimming pools; other nonessential businesses, such as bars, gyms, cinemas, and amusement parks, remain closed. Leaders have encouraged companies to allow work-from-home options for staff, if possible; approximately 40 percent of government staff are working remotely. Many businesses are also splitting teams to increase social distancing. Increased employee absenteeism remains possible, particularly for employees who reside in mainland China. The government has suspended classes for most students in the territory.

Hong Kong continues to restrict land border crossings with mainland China to 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. Airlines have significantly reduced flights due to decreased demand, and further cancellations are likely.

Travel Restrictions
All nonresident foreign nationals remain prohibited from entering or transiting the territory. Authorities require a health certificate with evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result for arriving passengers from designated "high-risk" countries, including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Nepal, and South Africa. The measure will also apply to travelers from the US and Kazakhstan from July 29. All arrivals from high-risk countries will be required to undergo a two-week quarantine in government-designated hotels.

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. Authorities have permitted some mainland Chinese teachers and students, as well as businesspeople whose activities officials deem economically beneficial to the territory, to enter Hong Kong without undergoing 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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