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Hong Kong scraps on-arrival COVID-19 testing

Hong Kong is returning to pre-pandemic travel norms, scrapping its unpopular on-arrival and post-arrival PCR tests for travellers, while abolishing its vaccine pass and all social distancing requirements.

Just two weeks after abolishing movement restrictions on those arriving from overseas, Hong Kong is taking another significant step to ease the process for international travellers by scrapping the unpopular on-arrival PCR test immediately after touching down at the airport, from 29th December 2022.

A mandatory PCR test on Day 2 of arrival has also been dropped, leaving only a pre-departure ART test as a requirement for visitors.

The city’s “Vaccine Pass”, which requires people to show that they are fully vaccinated in order to enter certain venues, will also be abolished, returning the city-state to almost pre-pandemic travel norms.

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The news comes as mainland China announced it will axe mandatory quarantine for international travellers arriving in the country from 8th January 2023, though strict visa policies remain in place for now, keeping it off-limits as a tourist destination.

Cross-border travel between Hong Kong and mainland China is also expected to be fully reopened by mid-January 2023.

On-arrival PCR testing scrapped

Following the recent removal of ‘Amber Code’ movement restrictions, the last major stumbling block deterring tourists from taking a trip to Hong Kong has been the on-arrival PCR test at the airport.

Since Hong Kong only requires a self-swab ART test prior to departure (honour system), the big concern is that the more sensitive PCR test on arrival may return a positive result, which has not been an ideal situation for holidaymakers given the mandatory quarantine of at least five days that would then be imposed.

There was also the annoyance of being confined to your accommodation while awaiting the on-arrival test result, and having to pick a hotel that would allow you to remain in your room if you did get a positive result (not all would do so, so this was vital to avoid being evicted to a government facility).

Hong Kong trips are a hassle-free reality again from 29th December. (Photo: Shutterstock)

In a statement this afternoon, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee confirmed that the SAR will be ending the on-arrival and Day 2 PCR testing requirement tomorrow, which is from 29th December 2022.

Five days of “recommended” antigen (ART / RAT) testing will still be in place, though as before there is no mandatory reporting of these results, positive or negative.

The arrival process at HKIA will become fully pre-COVID from 29th December 2022. (Photo: Hong Kong Information Services Department)

Hong Kong’s “Vaccine Pass” for venue entry and social distancing rules including group size restrictions are also being abolished, for a nearly fully pre-COVID experience for travellers.

One thing that will remain on the cards though is mask-wearing mandates, including on flights to and from Hong Kong.

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 28 Dec 2022
From 29 Dec 2022
Status Fully vaccinated**
Any nationality*
Fully vaccinated**
Any nationality*
e-Health declaration Within 96h of departure None
Pre-departure test Negative ART test within 24h
(self-ART)
Negative ART test within 24h
(self-ART)
On-arrival test
(at HKIA)
  • Day 0: PCR
None
Post-arrival tests^
  • Day 1: ART
  • Day 2: ART + PCR
  • Day 3: ART
  • Day 4: ART
  • Day 5: ART
Daily ART
“Recommended”
for 5 days

* 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

The e-Health declaration will no longer be mandatory for travellers, but you can use it to up[load your pre-departure test (photo of negative ART) if you wish.

If you opt not to complete the e-Health declaration, you must keep a photo of your pre-departure negative ART result for 90 days and produce it on request.

You may also choose to have a clinic PCR test within 48 hours of departure instead of a self-swab pre-departure ART within 24 hours, but why you would want to choose this more expensive and unnecessary option we have no idea!

Pre-departure testing applies to those aged three and above on the date of travel to Hong Kong.

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
(December 2022)

Airline / Flight Number Aircraft Days
(ex-SIN)
CX2690/759 A350-900
A350-1000
Daily
(7/wk)
CX714/715 A350-900 Wed, Thu, Sun
(3/wk)
CX716/2691 A350-900
A350-1000
Daily
(7/wk)
SQ882/883 777-300ER Daily
(7/wk)
SQ894/895 A380-800 Daily
(7/wk)
TR978/979 A321neo
787-8
Daily
(7/wk)
UO781/780 A320 Daily
(7/wk)

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.

Cathay Pacific is now offering 17 weekly Singapore – Hong Kong flights, increasing to 28 per week from February 2023. (Photo: Cathay Pacific)

This will hopefully be sufficient for the airline to reopen its dedicated lounge at Changi T4 in the months ahead, as the carrier has already done in London and Tokyo.

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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 additional SQ882/883 since 15th December 2022 and a daily Airbus A380 service operating since 1st December.

Hong Kong now features in SIA’s Spontaneous Escapes monthly award promotion for January 2023, with discounted redemptions in Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class, including on the Airbus A380. Let’s hope the trend continues for the February offer, which will be released in mid-January.

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.



 


 

Summary

Hong Kong is finally returning to pre-pandemic travel norms, with no more testing requirements for arriving passengers or mandatory forms to complete from 29th December 2022, making the process just like the good old days.

A self-swab pre-departure ART test will become the only major remaining requirement.

During your stay there will also no longer be any vaccine pass to show to enter venues, with group size and social gathering restrictions also disbanded.

Only mandatory mask-wearing will remain, in both indoor and (most) outdoor settings.

Will you be planning a trip to Hong Kong now the city-state is almost back at a pre-COVID state, with no mandatory PCR testing? Let us know in the comments section below!

(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)

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10 comments

    1. “Masks are here to stay” John Lee said. Something to do with winter flu season and kind of a “well we relaxed everything else what more do you want” argument!

      1. There are many studies that show that masks do NOT protect against influenza.

        No matter how many times certain politicians make this claim, it remains untrue.

        There is only weak evidence that masks offer any protection at all against Covid (Bangladesh and Denmark studies).

        The evidence is certainly not strong enough to mandate masks.

        Over 70% of Singapore residents got Covid despite mask mandates (August 2022).

        That is proof that mask mandates can’t stop the virus.