Update 17th August 2021: Hong Kong has pulled the plug on its airport antibody tests to allow vaccinated non-residents from low and medium-risk countries to serve shorter 7-day hotel quarantine periods.
All those arriving from Singapore will therefore now have to spend 14 days in quarantine on arrival.
Hong Kong is relaxing its entry rules with effect from 9th August 2021, permitting visitors from a wide range of countries for the first time, with progressively reduced hotel quarantine arrangements in place for those fully vaccinated and those who are also willing to undergo an additional antibody test.
While this is not related to the Air Travel Bubble (ATB) discussions between Hong Kong and Singapore, it’s a step forward for those wanting to travel between the two cities, with Singapore now reclassified in Hong Kong’s ‘Group B – Medium Risk’ category.
Hong Kong has now gone 58 days without recording an unlinked COVID-19 case, with 33% of residents fully vaccinated.
Opening to non-resident visitors from next week will be the first time tourists have been able to enter Hong Kong since its borders were shut in February last year.
Hong Kong’s new entry rules (Group B)
Provided you haven’t been in a ‘Group A – High Risk’ country (Brazil, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa and the United Kingdom) in the last 21 days, and you’re not entering with travel history from China or a ‘Group C – Low Risk’ country (Australia or New Zealand), it’s the new Group B requirements (everywhere else) that will apply.
You’ll must have stayed in a Group B country (e.g. Singapore, USA) for the last 14 days to be eligible.
Hong Kong Group B arrival requirements
(from 9th August 2021)
|Not fully vaccinated||Fully vaccinated||Fully vaccinated
|Status||HK residents only||HK and non-HK residents|
|Pre-departure||Negative PCR test
||Negative PCR test
|Negative PCR test
Positive Antibody test
|Hotel quarantine||21 days||14 days||7 days|
|Tests in quarantine||4||3||2|
|Tests after quarantine*||—||Day 16
* If still in Hong Kong
For the full requirements including those with travel history to Group A and Group C countries, see the details provided here.
This system could turn out to be a similar ‘blueprint’ for Singapore’s expected border relaxations for vaccinated visitors and residents returning from safer countries, due to be announced this month and take effect from September 2021.
In Singapore’s case we are expecting at least three ‘risk categories’ for countries, with corresponding quarantine (and hopefully some good lack of quarantine!) requirements.
Your vaccination record for arrival from a Group B country should:
- Be in English or Chinese issued by a healthcare institution or a relevant authority of the government of the place where the vaccine was administered, bearing the name of the relevant vaccinated traveller matching that in his/her valid travel document to show that:
- the relevant traveller has received dose(s) of COVID-19 vaccine and the date on which the last dose was administered
- the name of the vaccine administered.
Fully vaccinated status takes effect 14 days after your second dose (or your sole dose of a single-dose vaccine).
For Singapore residents, the vaccine record you can obtain for free from notarise.gov.sg should suffice.
Antibody test (complicated!)
If you want the 7-day quarantine option, you’ll also need an antibody test.
Your serology antibody test result must have been conducted within the past three months by a laboratory recognised by the HKSAR Government.
Unfortunately this test can’t be conducted in Singapore (well it can, but the results will not be recognised for boarding to Hong Kong).
That leaves you stuck with the 14-day hotel quarantine option initially.
In mid-August 2021, an antibody test on arrival at Hong Kong International Airport will become operational, which you’ll book before departure (similar to the on-arrival COVID-19 test proposed for the ATB arrangement).
You’ll then receive your results in your quarantine hotel within 24 hours of the test, and provided it’s positive (i.e. you do have antibodies against COVID-19 from vaccination!), you can then reduce your quarantine period to 7 days.
It will be vital to book a quarantine hotel allowing refunds on the additional 7 nights in this case, since your original booking will still have to be for 14 nights in order to board your flight.
The list of Designated Quarantine Hotels (DQHs) in Hong Kong, including nightly room rates, is available here.
Returning to Singapore
On return from Hong Kong, Singapore residents are subject to an arrival COVID-19 PCR test followed by 7-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN) at home or in self-sourced hotel accommodation.
The SHN part is likely to be done away with completely next month for fully vaccinated visitors, given Hong Kong’s near-zero COVID-19 case levels and rising vaccination levels.
In that case a Hong Kong leisure trip could be possible for fully vaccinated Singapore residents with only 7 days of hotel quarantine in Hong Kong itself and potentially no quarantine on return, even if the ATB doesn’t get off the ground.
There are currently 16 passenger flights per week in each direction on the Singapore – Hong Kong route:
- Cathay Pacific (Tue, Thu)
- Scoot (daily)
- Singapore Airlines (daily)
These carriers will no doubt be hoping that by allowing non-resident visitors for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Hong Kong’s latest requirements will drive demand for fuller flights and additional services in the months ahead.
What about the ATB?
We’re expecting an update on discussions between Singapore and Hong Kong on the 100% quarantine-free Air Travel Bubble proposal later this month, following two failed starts in November 2020 and May 2021.
With Singapore’s 7-day new unlinked case average at around 39 (5 or less is required!), there’s almost no hope of this plan getting off the ground anytime soon.
Hong Kong has also raised concerns that a combination of Singapore’s new ‘endemic COVID’ strategy from September 2021 and Hong Kong’s continued ‘zero COVID’ strategy may now make the ATB an impossible goal.
For the time being, it looks like 7 days hotel quarantine in Hong Kong for fully vaccinated Singapore residents, followed by zero quarantine on return, is about the best we can hope for.
Another positive step for travel, with Hong Kong significantly improving its quarantine requirements for residents returning and now also opening to non-resident visitors from the vast majority of ‘medium-risk’ countries, including Singapore.
Testing and some hotel quarantine (at least 7 days) is still a requirement unfortunately, along with the associated costs, but we’ve come a long way from the ’21-day residents only’ rule.
The new structure for the city’s arrival quarantine requirement might also be a good indication of the kind of setup Singapore will likely announce later this month, for arrival restrictions due to take effect in September.
We wouldn’t be rushing to book a Hong Kong trip at this stage.
That’s not just because of the 7-day hotel quarantine at that side, but because we predict Hong Kong will probably be on Singapore’s SHN-free travel list from September, allowing fully vaccinated residents returning to forgo the current 7-days of home isolation.
That should give us a 7-day total quarantine Hong Kong trip option, even assuming the ATB doesn’t get going by then. It’s certainly not perfect, but not out of the question either for those keen to visit the city, especially those reconnecting with friends and family there after a long time apart.
It’s also a bit closer than Canada or Germany!
Thanks to Aaron (tripperhead on Twitter) for helping us decrypt the Hong Kong antibody test rules!
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)