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CE vows to open more quarantine hotels, review flight suspension rules

23 March 2022

By The SUN


CE Lam says hotels used for isolation will be turned into quarantine facilities (RTHK)

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has told legislators some hotels now being used as isolation facilities will be converted to designated quarantine hotels for inbound travelers ahead of the lifting of the flight ban on nine countries starting Apr 1.

Earlier, she also said in her regular press conference that the government would reconsider its flight-specific suspension mechanism that threatens to limit the number of flights coming into Hong Kong despite the lifting of the travel ban.

Speaking at a virtual question-and-answer session with members of the Legislative Council earlier today, CE Lam said work is underway to open up more quarantine hotels for the thousands of residents and foreign domestic helpers poised to come in after the flight ban is lifted.


She said occupancy at the isolation hotels has remained low but it would take time for them to transform into quarantine facilities.

“Some hotels have already taken in people under isolation. We have to wait for the isolated people to leave the hotel, and then the entire hotel will have to be disinfected and cleaned before it can allow pre-booking by Hong Kong residents returning from overseas or foreign domestic helpers coming to work here,” she said.

At her press conference, the CE said there are currently 25 designated quarantine hotels with about 6,500 rooms. She said “we are working very hard” to get more hotels transformed into quarantine facilities.


But despite the looming shortage of hotel rooms, the CE rejected a suggestion by lawmaker Wendy Hong that incoming FDHs be quarantined at newly built makeshift isolation units, saying the government would rather let hotels do the work as they already have booking systems in place.

Earlier, CE Lam also acknowledged calls for a review of the anti-pandemic regulation that allows the government to suspend for two weeks any inbound flight that brings in a certain number of passengers who test positive for Covid-19.

While she received a lot of positive feedback to the lifting of the flight ban, she said concerns were raised on whether there will be enough flights coming into Hong Kong because of this suspension mechanism.


“I can only say that we know the problem and we are looking into how we could resolve this without compromising our border control measures,” she said.

Cathay is flying fewer planes to HK because of the flight suspension threat

Under current regulations, the suspension is triggered when four passengers who flew in using the same flight route test positive on arrival within a seven-day period.

Three passengers on the same flight who test positive on arrival, or failed to comply with pre-boarding requirements, can also set off the ban.

Tourism industry experts have urged that the threshold for imposing the suspension be raised so it will be only be triggered when a big number of infected passengers are detected on arrival, while employment agency operators want it lifted altogether.


At least one health expert, Ho Pak-leung, has urged not just a review of the flight suspension order, but also for incoming passengers to be allowed to spend their quarantine at home.

Mrs Lam said her government remains committed to strict border control measures despite the lifting of the travel ban and the reduction of the hotel quarantine period.

“We are still subjecting arrivals, now Hong Kong residents, to very stringent quarantine requirements, which are no longer adopted in most parts of the world; and by the way, they have to be Hong Kong residents, we are not allowing non-Hong Kong residents to come to Hong Kong yet after the lifting of the flight ban,” she said.


To be able to come back to Hong Kong, they must also be fully vaccinated and must present a presented a negative result for a PCR test and a confirmed booking at a designated quarantine hotel.

On their arrival, they are issued with a 14-day quarantine order but they will be allowed to leave their hotel if they test negative on days 6 and 7 of their quarantine.

Asked about the government’s decision to resume the issuance of compulsory testing notices, Mrs Lam said she was surprised that many people, including medical experts, have expressed doubts about this move.

She said the CTN is an important public health tool that will allow the government to identify people in the community who are infected but are not aware of it because a large percentage of Omicron cases are asymptomatic.

“It is only through testing that we could identify these people and suitably either isolate them or treat them in order to suppress the continuous spread of the virus in the community,” she said.

Now that the city has ramped up its testing capacity, she said the government should be far more proactive in curbing the spread of Covid-19.
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