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Hong Kong scraps LeaveHomeSafe app, curbs on incoming travelers

By AFP bureaus Published Dec 13, 2022 3:21 pm

Hong Kong announced Tuesday it would no longer require residents to use a scanning app to enter venues and that overseas arrivals could now visit bars and restaurants from the moment they land in a further easing of Covid restrictions.

The move comes a day after authorities in mainland China said they were retiring an app used to track travel to areas with Covid-19 cases, a milestone in the country's rapid turn away from its zero-tolerance coronavirus strategy.

Hong Kong has been allowed to pursue a lighter version of China's zero-Covid strategy but it has still kept in place a raft of restrictions and rules that most of the world has long since abandoned.

For much of the pandemic entry to public and commercial venues has been controlled by an app called "LeaveHomeSafe" that is linked to their vaccination status. 

Residents have to scan QR codes to enter most premises and may only do so if fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile since September, when Hong Kong finally abandoned mandatory quarantine for all overseas arrivals, those flying into the city have been banned from entering bars and restaurants for the first three days while they undergo tests.

At his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Hong Kong chief executive John Lee said both those measures were now being scrapped.

"We have made these two decisions because we have considered the data and the risks," he told reporters.

The new measures will come into effect on Wednesday and further details would be announced later in the day by the city's health department, he said.

Residents will still need to show proof of vaccination at certain venues, including restaurants, Lee added.

The move will be a boost for businesses at a time when Hong Kong's recession-mired economy is suffering from more than two years of self-imposed isolation.

The tourist industry has been decimated by the pandemic with businesses vocally lobbying for an end to restrictions including the three-day restaurant and bar ban for overseas arrivals.

However, many pandemic restrictions remain.

Hong Kong still requires widespread use of face masks, including outdoors. There is also an ongoing ban on more than 12 people gathering in public. Travel between Hong Kong and the mainland remains all but closed for now.

Currently, overseas visitors must also submit to a PCR test on arrival at the airport and two days afterward.