Hong Kong, whose international tourism industry has effectively been closed for the past 30 months, is ending mandatory hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals from Monday 26 September.
John Lee, chief executive of Hong Kong, made the announcement at a news conference on Friday afternoon.
In a comprehensive easing of Covid travel rules for international arrivals, the requirement for a pre-departure PCR test will also be dropped – though it may be replaced by a cheaper, swifter rapid antigen test.
At present, arriving international travellers must pay for a three-day stay in a quarantine hotel and then spend four days under medical survellance.
Arrivals must also undergo multiple arrival tests. But that will be replaced by a single test at the airport. The passenger will not need to wait at the airport for a result.
They will, though, be required to monitor their health for the first three days, during which their movements in the city will be limited – they can use public transport from the airport, but will not be allowed to enter bars or restaurants for the first three days.
The move was announced hours after Japan’s prime minister said restrictions on independent travellers from overseas would end on 11 October.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong was served by dozens of flights each week from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester.
Hong Kong banned all flights from the UK in December 2020. They were allowed briefly in May and June 2021, but then barred again In July 2021. The prohibition lasted until April 2022.
At present Cathay Pacific has two daily departures from Heathrow to Hong Kong. The airport’s previous status as a key international hub has almost vanished from global aviation.
International transit flights are allowed with strict conditions. The UK Foreign Office says: “All passengers transiting Hong Kong International Airport will be subject to advanced screening measures, including temperature checks.
“If you successfully pass health screening you need to sit in designated areas at boarding gates and use designated queues in dining facilities and shops.”
Hong Kong is a “special administrative region” of China. The remainder of the People’s Republic remains generally closed to international visitors.