Hong Kong will lift its flight ban on nine countries next week, signalling a shift from its ‘zero Covid’ policy.

Fully vaccinated Hong Kong residents from the UK, Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and the US will be allowed to board flights to Hong Kong from April 1 provided that they have proof of a negative PCR test.

Travellers will still need to quarantine in a hotel upon arrival in Hong Kong, but this will be cut to seven days from 14.

The city’s leader Carrie Lam announced the news at a press conference on Monday, stating that the flight ban is causing distress to Hong Kong people stranded overseas and is also having an impact on the city’s businesses.

She also announced that restrictions on social gatherings, mask-wearing and business and venue operations will begin to ease in three phases from April 20.

Meanwhile Reuters has today reported findings from an academic study that reveal that the full reopening of international travel in Hong Kong will have “little marginal impact” on the spread of Covid-19, provided that travellers are fully vaccinated and have proof of a negative pre-departure Covid test.

Malaysia and South Korea also plan to reopen to fully vaccinated travellers next month, though these two countries will not require quarantine upon entry.