Hong Kong holidaymakers are taking advantage of Covid’s relaxed travel rules to finally travel overseas

Under the new rules, travelers who receive a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test upon arrival at the airport will be granted freedom of movement city-wide.

Incoming arrivals are also required to undergo a second PCR screening on the third day and undergo rapid antigen testing for five days. Anyone who tests positive will continue to be housed in isolation.

In announcing the changes earlier, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu noted that imported cases pose less risk to the community than local ones.

Hong Kong on Sunday reported 21,225 infections, of which 964 were imported, and 50 deaths. The city’s Covid-19 record was 2,484,812 cases and 11,462 deaths.

According to the government, the daily number of exits has ranged from 26,000 to 32,000 since the government eased entry requirements on Dec. 14. On Christmas Eve, authorities recorded 29,013 departures. For comparison: from December 1st to December 14th the number was between 16,000 and 24,000.

Since curbs were last eased, arrivals have hovered between 20,000 and 21,000 daily.

Steve Huen Kwok-chuen, managing director of travel agency EGL Tours, said the company has planned around 180 group tours abroad for a total of around 5,000 people over the Christmas holiday.

“Now that the pandemic has changed, we are happy with the situation,” he said.

Steve Huen, Managing Director of EGL Tours.  Photo: Yik Yeung-man

Steve Huen, Managing Director of EGL Tours. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

By comparison, the number of tours organized for next month’s Lunar New Year long weekend would surpass the Christmas number by 30 percent, he said, adding that he believes the city’s airline industry needs more time to adjust to adapt to changing demand and increase passenger capacity.

“Hong Kong airport and airlines have resumed about a quarter of their original capacity,” he said. “We will likely have to wait until the second or third quarter of 2024 before they return to full capacity in pre-pandemic times.”

Last month, the airport authority said passenger traffic was expected to rise to just 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of next year.

Among those leaving the city, traditional Chinese medicine student Jeremy Leung said he would travel to Taipei for five days to “get some fresh air” before heading to mainland China for a year-long internship next year.

The 31-year-old said he expected the entire trip to cost around HK$8,000 and planned to do some sightseeing and catch some performances at local theatres.

“That kind of carelessness that you find in travel you don’t find in Hong Kong,” he said. “Staycations cannot replace the joy of being abroad.”

Ryan Chan, a 23-year-old university student, said he was flying to Sydney, Australia to visit relatives who emigrated there earlier this year.

“I feel lucky and happy,” he said. “The opportunity to travel has now become more valuable and meaningful than before. Hong Kong has recently seen waves of emigration, with friends and relatives scattered all over the world. Travel now has a different level of meaning.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *