As we reported back in September this year, Hong Kong finally opened its borders quarantine-free to visitors and returning residents, scrapping its hotel isolation programme, but retaining an arduous testing regime and limiting access to public spaces for the first 3 days.
Relaxations to the new entry process were inevitable given how most regional neighbours have either completely scrapped COVID-19 border policies (like Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea and Cambodia), or significantly eased requirements to something workable for tourists (like Taiwan and Japan).
Hong Kong has now announced that it will start to chip away at the entry testing requirements, removing two PCR tests currently required on the fifth and seventh day of arrival for those entering from Thursday 17th November 2022.
While this will significantly reduce the inconvenience of making a trip to a testing centre on those days, a pre-departure test and post-arrival self-swab ART testing remains, as does a PCR test on arrival at the airport and one on the third day of arrival.
There’s also still the biggest drawback of the process to contend with – three days of movement restrictions within a “medical surveillance” period, with some minor relaxations for venues like theme parks and bowling alleys from this week.
Hong Kong arrival process
Here’s how the new Hong Kong entry process looks, compared to the previous requirements.
🇭🇰 Hong Kong entry requirements
(fully vaccinated travellers)
|Till 16 Nov 2022
||From 17 Nov 2022
|Pre-departure test||Negative ART test within 24h||Negative ART test within 24h|
|Test on arrival
|3 days||3 days|
|Tests under medical surveillance^||
|Self-monitoring||+ 4 days||+ 4 days|
|Tests under self-monitoring^||
* Visa-free entry for Singapore citizens for up to 90 days, but some nationalities require a visa
** Hong Kong residents who are not fully vaccinated are also be able to enter
^ Only if you are still in Hong Kong on the specified day
This reduces the number of tests from 12 to 10 for returning residents, or those making longer trips to Hong Kong, removing two compulsory visits to a Community Testing Centre, mobile collection station or local testing institution to undergo PCR testing by professional swab sampling.
While this was free (unless you went to a private clinic), it added inconvenience and will now only be required on the third day of arrival (Day 2).
ART tests are self-administered, with no reporting of the results required (honour system).
Do note that Hong Kong still uses the more sensitive PCR test method for on-arrival and Day 2 testing, but requires the less sensitive ART swab method for your pre-departure test.
We recommend taking a pre-departure PCR test if you’re heading to Hong Kong while this format remains in force to minimise the risk, since a positive on-arrival test or Day 2 will lead to quarantine.
Airport arrival process
When you arrive at Hong Kong International Airport you will undergo a mandatory COVID-19 PCR test before collecting your luggage.
You are not be required to await the results of the test, instead being free to travel to your home or booked hotel immediately, by any means of transport.
Once you receive a negative test result, you will be given an ‘Amber Code’ on your LeaveHomeSafe mobile app, and that’s where the main drawback for tourists really begins…
3 days of movement restrictions
Unfortunately there has been only minor relaxation to the ‘Amber Code’ restrictions for inbound travellers in Hong Kong since September.
That means you will still be unable to enter most entertainment venues likes pubs, bars and restaurants for a full three-day period after arriving in Hong Kong – hardly ideal for holidaymakers.
On Thursday this week (17th November 2022), Hong Kong did ease these restrictions slightly, allowing ‘Amber Code’ travellers entry to mask-on venues, including theme parks, museums, religious premises, bowling alleys and hair salons.
However, some of the most important mask-off venues like restaurants, bars and gyms remain on the no-go list.
Restricted venues still include:
- catering premises including restaurants, bars or pubs (except for takeaway orders)
- fitness centres
- party rooms
- club houses
- clubs or nightclubs
- karaoke establishments
- mahjong-tin kau premises
- massage establishments
- sports premises
- swimming pools
- cruise ships
- event premises
- designated healthcare premises
However, during the 3-day medical surveillance period you may:
- take public transport and enter shopping malls, department stores and supermarkets
- collect takeaway orders from restaurants or food outlets
- go to work or attend school (probably not top of your agenda as a tourist!)
- participate in B2B conventions and exhibitions, subject to specified requirements
- visit barber shops or hair salons, theme parks and religious premises, among other mask-on activities
These restrictions during your first 3 days in Hong Kong will continue to make tourist visits to Hong Kong completely pointless for most of our readers.
Personally, we never visited Hong Kong for more than three or four days on each trip prior to COVID-19, and we expect most of our Singapore-based readers didn’t either.
As we mentioned in September, this makes the recent relaxation of quarantine and latest reduction in testing fundamentally a benefit for local residents or those with family in Hong Kong, not for the casual tourist.
Singapore – Hong Kong flights
Since Hong Kong went quarantine-free, flight schedules have progressively increased and there are now 45 weekly flights between Singapore and the city state, 70% more than there were when quarantine was first dropped, but still only a third of pre-pandemic levels.
December 2022 flights are shown in the following table.
Singapore – Hong Kong flights
|Airline / Flight Number||Aircraft||Days
|CX714/715||A350-900||Wed, Thu, Sun
Cathay Pacific in particular has ramped up to three daily flights on selected days.
Hong Kong has removed two of the four PCR tests required for visitors and returning residents to enter the SAR, making the process simpler and less inconvenient.
The three-day medical surveillance period and daily ART testing will remain, however, as does an on-arrival and Day 2 PCR test.
Movement restrictions have been relaxed slightly this week, with those holding the ‘Amber Code’ now allowed to visit theme parks, museums and bowling alleys, among other mask-on venues, but restrictions for bars and restaurants will continue to deter tourists from making a trip.
With practically every other country in the region except China now open with few (if any) COVID-19 entry restrictions, it simply doesn’t make sense to visit Hong Kong until this process is simplified further, with no movement restrictions attached.
Another issue for tourists to consider is the risk of testing positive at the on-arrival PCR test, which is more sensitive than an ART swab and may return a positive result from a recently recovered infection.
We recommend a pre-departure PCR test if you’re heading to Hong Kong, to minimise the risk of a positive on-arrival test.