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New Hong Kong Leader Vows to Review Hotel Quarantine Policy

·3 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s incoming leader John Lee said he plans to “quickly review” mandatory quarantine measures for incoming travelers, including suggestions to isolate at home or reduce the number of days required to stay in designated hotels.

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Lee, who will succeed Carrie Lam as Hong Kong’s chief executive on July 1, told the South China Morning Post that he would seek to reduce inconveniences for international travelers “without bringing extra risk to the mainland at the same time.” He also plans to prioritize the full reopening of the China border, without saying how he could accomplish both goals.

“One thing I will do very quickly together with my secretary for health is a quick review, looking at statistics and figures to ascertain how we can achieve the best result with the least cost,” the SCMP cited Lee as saying in an interview. A representative from Lee’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hong Kong has endured some of the world’s strictest quarantine measures to keep Covid at bay for more than two years, effectively shutting it off from the rest of the world. The curbs have led to an exodus of expat workers and residents and damaged the economy, raising questions about the city’s future as a financial center.

While a travel ban on non-residents was lifted last month, provided they are fully vaccinated, all international arrivals are still subject to seven-day hotel quarantine. The border restrictions stand in contrast to much of the rest of the world, which has dismantled pandemic curbs and is treating the virus as endemic.

Read more: Hong Kong’s Refusal to Open Border Is Crushing City’s Businesses

“The second thing is, what are possible interim measures and interim goals before we can reach the final goal?” Lee added in the interview, according to the SCMP. “The quarantine period is causing inconvenience to travelers. Is there a way of addressing that inconvenience so that [we can] reduce it a little bit? These are options.”

Read a profile of Hong Kong’s incoming health secretary

The interim measures could include point-to-point travel for individuals, like a “closed-loop” arrangement, the Post reported, citing an unidentified person.

Hong Kong’s future will come under the spotlight next week as the city marks 25 years of Chinese rule in the former British colony. Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in 2020 to snuff out a pro-democracy movement that brought millions of protesters to the streets a year earlier, generating an international outcry and sanctions on key leaders.

The city is rife with speculation over whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Hong Kong to mark the celebrations, an event that has also led local officials to tighten Covid controls in the past few weeks. The question afterward is whether Lee will be able to diverge more completely with Xi’s rigid Covid-Zero policy on the mainland to allow Hong Kong to again serve as a financial hub connecting the city with the rest of the world.

(Updates throughout. An earlier version corrected the spelling of Hong Kong in third paragraph.)

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