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Hong Kong to reduce quarantine for arrivals to 14 days from next month

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HONG KONG — Hong Kong will reduce the quarantine for travelers arriving from Feb. 21 to 14 days from Feb. 5, leader Carrie Lam said Thursday, a move that follows intense lobbying from financial executives and government officials. diplomats who said the measure hurt competitiveness.

Strict coronavirus rules have left Hong Kong one of the most isolated cities in the world, with flights down by up to 90%.

Residents returning from more than 160 countries have been required to self-quarantine for 21 days at designated hotels and must now spend 14 days in a hotel, followed by seven days of self-monitoring, with further details to be announced. . She did not specify which countries would be covered by the new rules.

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“It’s not because of pressure from anyone. It’s just because of science… that Omicron has a relatively short incubation period,” she said during a press conference, adding that the measure was still unlikely to satisfy the business community.

The territory’s European Chamber of Commerce said in an internal report on Wednesday that weeks of quarantine requirements were affecting desirability and risking an exodus as companies moved staff to Singapore and Seoul, the South Korean capital.

The easing comes as the government tightens rules in Chinese territory to curb the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus, locking thousands of people into a congested housing complex and government facilities.

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Schools, playgrounds, gyms and most venues are closed, while tens of thousands of people are required to take daily coronavirus tests.

Lam said the citywide restrictions would be extended through Feb. 17, from a previous date of Feb. 4. Schools will not resume face-to-face classes until February 21.

This week the government announced that some civil servants could work from home, with some bank workers receiving similar instructions.

Thursday’s 164 new infections were a record since the pandemic began in 2020. It was a fifth consecutive day of triple-digit cases after an outbreak linked to the Kwai Chung housing estate.

Lam said the city needs to increase its vaccination rate to around 90% from the current 70% before officials can consider adapting current policies.

“I can’t stand to see a lot of people dying in my hospitals, so we’ll do our best to increase our vaccination rate.”

(Additional reporting by Anne Marie Roantree and Jessie Pang; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Mark Heinrich)