There’s much to be hopeful about in 2021, but when it comes to international travel, it may still get worse, before it gets better. Hong Kong is the latest destination not only to tighten covid-19 related entry requirements, but to actually lengthen quarantine for all arrivals from 14, to 21 days. And yes, that’s even with the negative covid-19 test, which of course you’d need, before becoming eligible to travel.
The only noted exception to the new policy applies to arrivals from China, Taiwan and Macau, which can still opt for 14 days of home quarantine.
Just when a travel rally was on the way, a temporary new road-block has emerged, with the new coronavirus mutation. Until vaccine spread becomes wider, the message from many countries is “do not travel”, and Hong Kong is leading the way.
Hong Kong Steps Up Travel Quarantine
Pre-flight testing was beginning to reopen key global links, but concerns over the new – but somewhat expected – virus mutation have temporarily taken things the other way. For how long? That’s anyone’s guess. If vaccines prove indeed to be equally effective against the new variant, perhaps not long at all, with spring still in play.
On December 25th, 2020 Danny Lee at the South China Morning Post broke news that Hong Kong would increase quarantine time for all travel from 14 days of mandatory self isolation, to 21 days. The news saw travelers bound for Hong Kong stranded all over the globe.
The decision came at the midnight hour as Hong Kong recorded 57 new covid-19 cases. According to Hong Kong authorities, 55 of the 57 cases were from local, non-travel related transmission, and just two were imported. Still, it didn’t stop the same authorities from upending travel plans over night.
Travel to Hong Kong was likely off limits for many typically keen visitors in 2020, and perhaps less appealing due to current 14 day quarantine anyway, but the new 21 day restrictions impact real life abilities to connect with family, or conduct essential work. It may absolutely be the right move, but each such ‘sudden change’ restriction comes at the expense of other things.
Hong Kong temporarily banned all arrivals from the UK and South Africa, even for citizens, which means many will ring in the new year in new, or unfamiliar territory, and face both financial and mental difficulty in the process of reconnecting. Bizarrely, Hong Kong also imposed fresh quarantine restrictions on Singapore and New Zealand, both of which have largely held off any covid-19 waves.
“It is mentally stressful and financially draining to have this change of policy with no warning whatsoever, no government subsidy, and no better options at a reasonable price range,”Chloe Poon Ka-yee, via South China Morning Post
Some countries are making efforts to subsidize costs related to quarantine and other travel related health and safety measures right now, like pre-flight testing, yet others are not. Australia requires 14 days of quarantine at a cost of more than $3000USD, in a monitored facility, which many see as a clear message “not to” travel.
Meanwhile, many Caribbean destinations have cut deals with local hotels to make a shorter quarantine still seem palatable enough to visitors, to make the trip worthwhile. Hong Kong isn’t offering any relief for the cost of an extra 7 days in hotel quarantine, with the overnight move. It’s not exactly known for being a low cost hotel city, either.
Right or wrong, Hong Kong’s choice to lengthen quarantine for all arrivals from 14 to 21 days is just the latest example of overnight border changes in response to covid-19 risk, which most recently including many countries closing their doors to the UK and South Africa.
Constant change to entry requirements is a key factor potential travelers cite as a reason they’ll continue to shun travel.
Highly tourism dependent regions walked the tight rope in 2020, forced to strike the delicate balance between covid-19 entry restrictions which keep lives and resources in tact, and forcing visitors away, thus losing out on opportunity. Any leisure travel hopes for Hong Kong were quashed in July, but even essential travel is complicated right now. For now, Hong Kong is about as closed as can can be.
Wake me up when it’s March, am I right?