Travellers will be subject to PCR tests on arrival from September 26 and will be unable to visit restaurants and bars for the first three days under a system authorities have dubbed "0+3".

Strict pandemic rules will stay in place, including social distancing restrictions, mandatory mask wearing and digital health codes to enter public venues.
Strict pandemic rules will stay in place, including social distancing restrictions, mandatory mask wearing and digital health codes to enter public venues. (Reuters)

Hong Kong has announced it will end mandatory hotel quarantine, scrapping some of the world's toughest travel restrictions, which battered the economy and kept the finance hub internationally isolated.

Chief Executive John Lee said on Friday that the current three days of hotel quarantine would be reduced to zero for those arriving from overseas.

From September 26, travellers will be subject to PCR tests on arrival and will be unable to visit restaurants and bars for the first three days under a system authorities have dubbed "0+3".

"Under this arrangement, the quarantine hotel system will be cancelled," Lee told reporters.

Overseas arrivals will also need further PCR tests on days two, four and six in the city.

Tourists who test positive face being isolated in hotel rooms at their own expense. Most residents can isolate at home, but those who cannot may be sent to government facilities.

Authorities also said they were lifting quotas on arrivals from mainland China — but those going in the opposite direction must still quarantine under Beijing's strict zero-Covid rules.

Other strict pandemic rules will stay in place, including social distancing restrictions, mandatory mask wearing and digital health codes to enter public venues. And group gatherings of more than four people in public remain banned.

READ MORE: 'End is in sight': Covid-19 cases drop dramatically – WHO

Technical recession

The long-awaited move brings relief to residents and businesses clamouring for the city to rejoin the rest of the world in resuming unhindered travel and living with Covid-19 — though many pandemic restrictions remain.

The city is currently in a technical recession — two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

Finance chief Paul Chan has warned Hong Kong's fiscal deficit is expected to balloon to $12.7 billion this year, twice initial estimates.

"For Hong Kong to truly regain competitiveness vis-a-vis other cities around the world, the announcement is not enough; Hong Kong should be totally connected to the world without hindrance," said local AmCham president Eden Woon.

For the past two and a half years, Hong Kong has adhered to a version of China's strict zero-Covid rules, deepening a brain drain as rivals reopened.

The announcement leaves mainland China as the only major economy still hewing to lengthy quarantine for international arrivals.

READ MORE: China expands Covid-19 lockdowns at Hainan beach resort, other cities

Source: AFP