As we reported back in September, 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.
The process was slightly relaxed last month, with PCR tests on Day 4 and Day 6 dropped and some minor easing of restrictions within the three-day ‘Amber Code’ restriction period.
The good news is that all movement restrictions are being axed from tomorrow, for trips close to pre-pandemic norms, with visitors and returning residents free to enter bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues right from the moment they receive a negative on-arrival test result.
‘Amber Code’ scrapped from 14th December
The major stumbling block deterring tourists from taking a trip to Hong Kong has been the ‘Amber Code’ period barring them from entering most entertainment venues likes pubs, bars and restaurants for a full three days after arriving in Hong Kong – which has hardly been an ideal situation for holidaymakers.
This made the initial relaxation of quarantine in September fundamentally a benefit for local residents or those with family in Hong Kong, not for the casual tourist.
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.
These restrictions during your first 3 days in Hong Kong effectively made tourist visits to Hong Kong completely pointless for most of our readers, until now.
In a statement this morning, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee confirmed that the SAR will be ending the ‘Amber Code’ requirements tomorrow, which is from 14th December 2022.
This effectively removes the much-criticised “0 + 3” regime for arriving travellers, replacing it with a “0 + 0” restriction-free policy.
The relaxation will also apply to returning Hong Kong residents, who can now make overseas trips with far less hassle than before, and will no doubt also lead to a resurgence in short-term Business trips to and from the city.
Indeed Cathay Pacific’s share price is already up 3% today, based on the welcome news.
Hong Kong arrival process
Here’s how the new Hong Kong entry process should look from tomorrow, compared to the current requirements.
🇭🇰 Hong Kong entry requirements
(fully vaccinated travellers)
|Till 13 Dec 2022
||From 14 Dec 2022
|e-Health declaration||Within 96h of departure||Within 96h of departure|
|Pre-departure test||Negative ART test within 24h
|Negative ART test within 24h
|Test on arrival
|Tests under medical surveillance^||
|Self-monitoring||+ 4 days||2 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
Update: The Hong Kong Government has now confirmed that the testing regime for inbound international travellers from 14th December 2022 will be simplified to:
- Pre-departure self-swab ART test
Self-declaration of results is permitted (no clinic visit or tele-ART is needed)
- On-arrival PCR test at HKIA
Free of charge
- Self-swab ART tests for five days (if still in HK)
Reporting of these results is completely optional
- Day 2 PCR test
Free of charge
This is a significant relaxation on up to 10 tests previously required for those taking longer trips, but currently the two PCR swabs unfortunately do remain, either of which could result in isolation being required if a positive result is returned.
Note that the pre-departure test can currently be self-administered without supervision, simply conduct it yourself at home and tick the appropriate box for a negative result on the e-Health declaration prior to departure.
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 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.
From 14th December 2022, you will no longer be given an ‘Amber Code’ on your LeaveHomeSafe (LHS) mobile app once a negative result comes through, which means no more movement restrictions in place for the rest of your stay.
Do note, however, that you will still be required to remain in your accommodation until a negative result from the on-arrival test is received (typically within 2 hours of swabbing).
The LHS app itself also seems to be being disbanded from 14th December, with no requirement to scan to enter venues across the city from tomorrow onwards.
However, some outlets will still require you to show evidence of vaccination, it’s only the contact tracing part of the process that is being axed.
Arriving travellers those who test positive will still get a ‘Red Code’ and will have to follow the current regime, requiring them to isolate at home for at least five days (or for visitors, in their hotel room, provided they are staying at one of these hotels).
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, with four flights per day (28 per week) planned from February 2023.
Singapore Airlines is reinstating its third daily Hong Kong flight (SQ892/893) from 15th January 2023, using an Airbus A350 Long Haul aircraft, which supplements the new SQ882/883 from 15th December 2022 and a daily Airbus A380 service operating since 1st December.
Let’s hope we might start to see Hong Kong appear in SIA’s regular Spontaneous Escapes monthly award promotion for January 2023 and beyond!
Scoot will also add a second daily Singapore – Hong Kong flight from 1st January 2023, for twice daily service using an Airbus A320 and Airbus A321 respectively from that date.
Hong Kong is finally scrapping annoying movement restrictions for arriving international travellers from 14th December 2022, making the process simpler and far closer to pre-COVID norms.
Travellers will therefore be free to enjoy their trips just like before, with near-immediate access to venues across the city like bars and restaurants.
Relaxations to the SAR’s 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).
Unfortunately testing is still in the mix, though we are awaiting full details on whether any of the (up to 10!) swabs will now also be removed. Many would-be travellers sadly still won’t want to take the risk of testing positive at the on-arrival test, which then requires at least five days of isolation.
Will you consider a trip to Hong Kong with these latest relaxations? Let us know in the comments section below.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)