HONG KONG - Hong Kong is considering isolation hotels for inbound travellers who test positive for Covid-19, as the city seeks to scrap mandatory quarantine for all arrivals to salvage its status as an international financial centre.
The accommodations would replace Hong Kong's current spartan facilities such as the notorious Penny's Bay, which have deterred many people from coming to the city, Michael Tien, a National People's Congress deputy and city lawmaker, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
Building up an adequate inventory will be necessary because the government's plan to scrap the current three-day quarantine period and the requirement for a negative pre-arrival PCR test means the city will see a lot more visitors, Mr Tien said.
Travellers will still need to take a PCR test after they arrive, Mr Tien said.
"That will mean upon landing, there will be a lot more cases that could be found positive," he said.
"Then they have to go to the isolation hotels."
Visitors will also likely to be required to wait at the airport until their results are available, Mr Tien said, which means the city needs to ensure its laboratory capacity can handle the volume and process tests within a few hours.
Hong Kong is gearing up for further easing of its travel curbs, which have been some of the world's toughest as the city follows China's Covid Zero policy.
Prolonged closure of the border has left the city at a disadvantage compared to rivals such as Singapore, which attracted more investment and talent after they shifted to living with the virus.
The potential removal of hotel quarantine may come by mid-October, Mr Tien said, ahead of major events including a high-profile banking summit designed to boost Hong Kong's global reputation.
Yet the details that Mr Tien outlined leave doubt about whether the easing package would be attractive enough to entice visitors, who could still face hours of waiting at the airport for test results that may lead to confinement in an isolation hotel. BLOOMBERG