Hong Kong Dials Back One of World’s Longest Covid-19 Quarantines

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HONG KONG—The city’s top official announced the shortening of one of the world’s longest quarantine requirements, cutting a three-week mandatory stay criticized by many business groups to two weeks.

Hong Kong Chief Executive

Carrie Lam

said the move was made based on scientific considerations and as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus becomes the dominant strain in more countries.

Other social distancing measures such as the closure of gyms, pools and evening dining will be extended until Feb. 17, Mrs. Lam said, while a flight ban instituted in early January for arrivals from eight countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Canada will remain in place until Feb. 18.

In line with China’s national strategy of seeking to maintain “zero covid” infections, the city has some of the world’s strictest Covid-19 containment policies, which until recently had kept the city free of community transmissions for months.

Business groups, however, have bemoaned the lengthy quarantine, which is driving an exodus of talent as frustrated executives—many stuck for months without seeing overseas and mainland clients and family—consider other home bases.

A street in Hong Kong’s central business district. Business groups have bemoaned the city’s lengthy quarantine.



Photo:

Paul Yeung/Bloomberg News

Mrs. Lam acknowledged that sentiment on Thursday, though rejected calls for even shorter quarantine periods for now.

“The business community, they want seven days or even no days of quarantine,” she said. Given the current conditions, though, for now “that’s a very dangerous move.”

Mrs. Lam said the government will be making vaccines mandatory for entry to more premises, and once the vaccination rate hits 90% the city can consider adapting existing policies.

The Thursday announcement reverts to an earlier policy that required a two-week quarantine from many countries. It was upgraded to three weeks as Omicron spread across the world.

Write to Natasha Khan at natasha.khan@wsj.com

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