hOng Kong officials on Friday announced the end of the hotel quarantine for incoming travelers, as the government seeks to repair its shattered image as a global financial center.
From September 26, visitors and returning residents do not have to undergo isolation at a particular hotel. They will be allowed to go to offices and use public transportation, but they will not be allowed to visit restaurants and bars for their first three days in the city.
Rapid antigen tests (RAT) will be required daily for a week, with results uploaded to a government website. Travelers will also have to take PCR tests on arrival, and at licensed testing facilities on the second, fourth and sixth days after their arrival.
Read more: How do you decide if business travel is worth it now
“We must give the greatest economic impetus to our society while balancing the risks,” said China’s top official, CEO John Lee, at a press conference announcing the changes.
The city is one of the last places in the world where quarantine is still required for incoming travelers, and the government has faced intense pressure to open up from the business sector.
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee, left, and other officials arrive at a press conference to announce the end of hotel quarantine in Hong Kong, China, Friday, September 23, 2022.
Chan Long Hee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The move comes ahead of a financial conference in early November, hosted by Hong Kong’s central bank, which it hopes will be a signal of the city’s recovery. Some Wall Street dignitaries have indicated that their attendance will be conditional on Hong Kong ending its hotel quarantine. (Several major events of 2023 have already been postponed or canceled, including the RISE conference, which has been described as “Asia’s largest tech gathering.”)
Travelers have been asked to undergo self-financed hotel quarantines for up to 21 days in some cases during the pandemic. Last month, the period was reduced to three days in a hotel followed by four days of home medical monitoring.
Read more: Tourist destinations in Asia are struggling to come back to life
The end of the hotel quarantine is expected to be met with extensive domestic comfort. Hong Kong’s economy went into recession in the second quarter, and pandemic restrictions have dented earnings for some of the city’s largest employers.
An employee in personal protective equipment places meal trays at the entrance to quarantine hotel rooms in Hong Kong on September 27, 2021
Olivier Chauchana/Gamma Ravo via Getty Images
According to a new report by London-based think tank Z/Yen and the China Development Institute, a strict COVID regime and a talent exodus mean the city has also been ousted as Asia’s largest financial center by Singapore.
The website of the major city carrier Cathay Pacific saw an increase in traffic on the back of the news on Friday afternoon. At 4:30 p.m. local time there was a five minute wait to get to the site. But recent changes may not be enough to attract business travelers or tourists — especially when other destinations in the region, such as Singapore and Thailand, have scrapped COVID-19 restrictions entirely.
Hong Kong has traditionally been considered by visitors as a quick city break. In 2019, the average length of stay was only 3.3 nights. It’s unclear how many would return if they couldn’t enjoy the city’s legendary dining and nightlife for most of their trip, while facing a grueling set of tests.
Read more: What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 while traveling
By contrast, Singapore reopened to fully vaccinated travelers in March and is preparing to host hundreds of thousands of people at the Formula 1 Grand Prix on October 2, with very few restrictions whatsoever.
It appears that other anti-epidemic measures will remain in place, including the mandatory mask to be worn almost everywhere, even outdoors, and the government’s tracking and tracing app required to enter almost anywhere. RATs are currently required of anyone wishing to enter a bar or nightclub.
City Health Chief Lu Zhong Mao said Friday that if a traveler tests positive, they will be quarantined at home, in hotels or in community facilities, without specifying whether travelers will have the ability to choose the location where they are quarantined. .
Speaking on the radio earlier, Dr Ho Pak Leung, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, said the city should remove all quarantine and monitoring restrictions on incoming arrivals.
More must-read stories from TIME