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March 24, 2022

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HK to ease pandemic restrictions

Officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region said the COVID-19 outbreak was stabilizing in the city and the number of new cases was declining, as the city plans to ease some COVID-19 restrictions next month.

The city reported 14,068 new coronavirus infections on Monday, the lowest in over three weeks. At the peak of its outbreak, it reported over 50,000 cases daily, and has reported over 1 million infections and over 5,900 deaths since the current wave began at the end of last year, according to data from the city’s Department of Health.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the plan to relax some anti-COVID-19 measures from April at a news conference on Monday.

A ban on flights from Australia, Britain, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United States would be lifted from April 1, Lam said.

A flight ban on most of these countries has been in place since January, as authorities sought to stem the outbreak of the highly transmissible Omicron variant in the city.

“The ban on flights is no longer timely and appropriate — it will bring great unrest to the people of Hong Kong who are stuck in these nine countries if we continue the ban,” Lam said.

Travelers entering the city can also quarantine for as short as seven days in quarantine hotels, which is down from 14 days, if they test negative for the virus on the sixth and seventh days.

Such travelers must also be fully vaccinated and test negative for the coronavirus before entering the city.

Schools would resume face-to-face classes from April 19 after the Easter holidays, while public venues, including sports facilities, would reopen from April 21. Lam also said that plans for a citywide mass-testing exercise, announced in February, would be suspended.

“The experts are of the opinion that it’s not appropriate for us to devote finite resources to the universal mass-testing,” said Lam. “The SAR government will continue to monitor the situation. When the conditions are right, we will consider whether we will be implementing the compulsory universal testing.”

Lam said that the changes come as part of an interim review of the city’s measures, and that various stakeholders in the city will be consulted for any longer-term roadmaps.


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