Hong Kong is to further ease its Covid-19 travel restrictions from next week, removing the requirement for international visitors to undergo hotel quarantine.

Currently overseas arrivals must complete three days of compulsory hotel quarantine, followed by a further four days of “medical surveillance”, during which they must test daily.

From September 26 visitors will be able to travel to their residence or accommodation of choice, and will be required to “self monitor” for three days.

During this time they will be able to go to work – a key change for business travellers eager to return to the Chinese Special Administrative Region – but will not be allowed to enter bars or restaurants.

In addition the current requirement to present a negative PCR test before departure for Hong Kong will be replaced by a rapid antigen test (RAT).

The Financial Times reports that visitors will also have to take PCR tests at Hong Kong airport and on the second, fourth, and sixth days after their arrival, as well as daily RAT tests for a week.

Hong Kong has been subject to some of the world’s strictest travel restrictions since the onset of Covid-19 over two and a half years ago. At one stage visitors were required to quarantine in hotels for as long as three weeks.

Commenting on the news Hong Kong’s flag carrier said:

“Cathay Pacific welcomes the Hong Kong SAR Government’s latest measures to facilitate travel to Hong Kong, especially the decision to remove the hotel quarantine arrangement for passengers arriving in Hong Kong effective September 26, 2022.

“These adjustments will help boost sentiment for travel, thereby facilitating the gradual resumption of travel activities and strengthening of network connectivity to, from and through the Hong Kong aviation hub.

“We intend to add more than 200 pairs of passenger flights in October to both regional and long-haul destinations. In view of Japan’s relaxation of travel restrictions for inbound visitors, Cathay Pacific will resume daily flights to Tokyo (Haneda) from November 1 and four-times-weekly flights to Sapporo from December 1. We will also increase flight frequencies to Tokyo (Narita) to 43 pairs and Osaka to 50 pairs in October.

“As Hong Kong’s home airline, we are fully committed to rebuilding the connectivity of the Hong Kong aviation hub. While we will continue to add back more flights as quickly as is feasible, it will take time to rebuild our capacity gradually.”

Meanwhile Dr Xie Xingquan, IATA’s regional vice president for North Asia, commented:

“We welcome the announcement by the Hong Kong SAR government to further ease quarantine requirements. This is a step forward that will help with the recovery of the travel and tourism sector.

“The next step is to remove all Covid-19 measures as we have seen elsewhere in Asia. That includes the three days medical surveillance, the PCR test on arrival, as well as measures that apply to unvaccinated travellers.

“The entire aviation value chain in Hong Kong needs to be prepared for a surge in travel from pent up demand, similar to what we have seen in other markets as soon as quarantine measures are lifted. Having the required manpower is key to avoiding the problems seen in European and US airports.”