Hong Kong is moving 15 countries, including the United States, from its “medium risk” category for COVID-19 to a “high risk” denotation on Friday.
That means that travelers arriving from those places must be fully vaccinated, take part in a 21-day quarantine and receive five negative test results, the final one coming 26 days after arriving in Hong Kong.
The other 14 affected countries are France, Greece, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Iran, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Tanzania.
These individuals must have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to departing for Hong Kong with records showing this having been issued by China, Hong Kong or a World Health Organization-approved regulatory authority elsewhere. Also, the two-week quarantine must take place in a designated hotel that has been specified for this purpose.
Another change that will occur on Friday is the moving of Australia from “low risk” to “medium risk,” indicating that visitors from there must now quarantine for 14 days if fully vaccinated, 21 if not. However, the former figure can be reduced to seven days with an approved positive antibody test result.
These moves were sparked by significant surges in positive test results in the aforementioned countries in a short period of time. As a result, according to the statement that accompanied this announcement, “enormous challenges” have been presented to Hong Kong’s own anti-epidemic efforts, which have been mostly successful and resulted in a minimal number of recent locally transmitted cases.
In fact, according to the South China Morning Post, health officials in Hong Kong had been calling for the U.S. in particular to be moved up to the “high risk” category. Dr. Ho Pak-leung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said that having the U.S. as a “medium risk” country was the “biggest loophole” in the measures that the government had undertaken.
A significant concern was of vaccinated Americans carrying the virus into Hong Kong. The number of new cases per day in the U.S. has increased to a rate of 125,000 over the past week.
Countries that had already been labeled as “high risk” by Hong Kong officials prior to Monday’s announcement and remained so include Ireland, Russia, United Kingdom, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa and Brazil.