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More HK arrivals from mainland to skip quarantine

2020-10-27 HKT 17:35
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  • More HK arrivals from mainland to skip quarantine
The SAR government said it plans to allow more Hongkongers to return from the mainland without having to undergo quarantine from next month, saying the coronavirus situation across the border has stabilised. But no details have been released.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam mentioned the plan before she went into the Executive Council meeting and said there will be a limit on the numbers as there are only two border checkpoints operating now.

Hong Kong restricted cross-border travel earlier this year when Covid flared up on the mainland and now allows only selected groups, deemed essential, to travel into the city without going into quarantine for 14 days.

Only Shenzhen Bay and the Hong Hong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge are operating as border points at present.

Briefing the media about the new plan, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said Hongkongers returning to the SAR will be able to skip the mandatory quarantine when they come back.

The situation on the mainland in areas such as Guangdong stabilised a long time ago, Chan said. But still those who are exempted from quarantine must provide a negative result from a throat swab test (known as a PCR test) to show they are not infected.

But the secretary didn't specify how many hours before arrival the test should be conducted. People coming from high risk areas have to take such a test within 72 hours of their journey.

"We are now working on exempting people, Hong Kong residents coming back, from Guangdong province for example, to Hong Kong and exempting their 14 days quarantine if they have a negative PCR test. So this is what we are now studying. We do not have further details, but this is the general principle," said the health chief.

The relaxation arrangement can be stopped if there is a greater risk of infection, said Chan.

She also said that compulsory screening being done for all arrivals at the airport is to be speeded up by the use of rapid tests with the help of some private laboratories.

"Using rapid tests is some trend and also has its benefits, because the usual PCR test usually takes very long," she said.

Chan said the effectiveness of the tests will be maintained. "The last thing we want is to have a rapid test that is not valid or that is not sensitive enough to identify the cases, the confirmed cases," she said.