Hong Kong begins to reopen borders
Hong Kong has begun the process of reopening its borders in response to growing demands from the business community.
A ban on flights from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Nepal and the Philippines will end on April 1st.
At the same time, hotel quarantine for arrivals from those destinations will be cut to seven days from 14.
Hong Kong chief executive, Carrie Lam, also confirmed citywide Covid-19 mass testing will be put “on hold”.
Most social-distancing measures will be gradually eased from April 21st, including allowing dining-in at restaurants after 18:00.
Up to four people will be allowed at social gatherings during the first phase of reopening.
The destination will also no longer classify overseas regions/countries into different risk categories, Lam said.
Although Covid-19 cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks, officials have begun to acknowledge the damage the absolutist approach to controlling the pandemic has had on the city.
The moves were reportedly spurred by frustration in the banking community and wider population, which has endured more than two years of effectively closed borders.
While curbs and quarantines kept the city virtually virus-free for much of the pandemic, the more contagious Omicron variant evaded measures, cutting a swathe through the city.
Hong Kong now has the highest Covid-19 death rate in the world, with hundreds of under-vaccinated elderly people and care-home residents killed by the virus.