Last week the Hong Kong government announced the new quarantine arrangement. Under the new ‘3+4 model’, travellers need to have three days of compulsory quarantine at a designated hotel, followed by four days of ‘medical surveillance’ at home. During medical surveillance, people can still travel to work, and do light grocery shopping. However, they cannot attend public gathering and visit ‘high-risk’ facilities, such as hospitals and schools. This policy, according to Hong Kong officials, was made after scientific evidence and data to control the risk factors of COVID-19.
This has been a long wait. The last time that the government reduced the day of quarantine was back in May. And along with China and Taiwan, Hong Kong is one of the very few places that still have quarantine requirement for travellers since the Pandemic.
Green light from Beijing
Since the beginning of 2022, most countries have lifting quarantine measures, trying to resume normal domestic and international travels. They claim that, eventually, the world need to live with COVID, as long as its impact of the public health care system is minimal.
However, as the government needs to align with Beijing’s policy, Hong Kong has no choice but to adopt COVID-free policy. The China factor has been one consideration. It appears that Hong Kong public health policy needs to be politically correct. Given the fact that the Mainland cannot afford another outbreak or lockdown, Hong Kong, as the window of China, needs to maintain a strict international travel policy.
Fortunately, Beijing seemed to realise that COVID-free policy cannot sustain its own economy in long term. On 1stJuly during his visit in Hong Kong, Xi Jinping mentioned that ‘Hong Kong need[s] to have a new outlook on the motherland and have an international vision’. This is commonly seen as a green light was finally on for the ‘living with COVID’ policy, that Hong Kong needs to have a more independent COVID policy than other Chinese city, as an international hub. Thereby, the ‘3+4 model’ is introduced.
Not helping tourism
To many travellers, the new quarantine measure is not helpful, because you still need to stay in the hotels for a few days and cannot go anywhere else. As a person who experienced 14-day quarantine, I would simply say the experience is far worse than staycation.
The new policy is unlikely to attract business travel to Hong Kong. As a matter of cost, there is no difference between ‘3+4’ model and seven days hotel quarantine to foreigners. Because they would still need to stay in a hotel during their stay. In fact, they would need to change hotels under the new policy, as the government has designated hotels just for quarantine. In other words, this has become more inefficient for them.
Additionally, the quarantine arrangement is poor. Before you come to Hong Kong, you need to compete with others for hotel quarantine booking — and they are not cheap at all. At the airport, you have to wait a few hours at the arrival terminal before travellers can go to their quarantined hotels. You need to experience the redundancy of human resources and long hours to wait for testing results. All these experiences have reduce the willingness of people travelling to Hong Kong.
In fact, the reduction of quarantine is likely to be welcomed by local residents, whom have not travel overseas for nearly two and a half years. The ‘3+4 model’ will save them at least 4 days hotel quarantine expanses. Also, they can also go back to offices during the four days of surveillance. Therefore, Hongkongers will be more likely to travel overseas after the policy is implemented.
A gradual process?
Over the pass three years, Hong Kong tourism and service industry have been struggling. With little governmental support, they have found numerous ways to maintain their businesses. However, those are only temporary measures. They cannot survive for long. Ultimately, the Hong Kong government needs to reopen its border for international travel.
Hong Kong officials suggest that the ‘3+4 model’ is only an intermediate measure. The government may introduce the ‘0+7 model’, then eventually lifting all the travel restriction. However, to date, a clear timeline has not been given. Indeed, the government needs to speed up the process — at the bare minimum — no more quarantine by the end of this year.