In April, Hong Kong will lift restrictions on flights to nine countries, including France

Since the start of the pandemic, the region has imposed some of the strictest containment measures in the world, largely halting the spread of the virus but isolating the international financial hub. But Hong Kong is moving towards relief: From April its international flights will resume from nine countries, including France, the United Kingdom and the United States, local chief executive Carrie announced on Monday. Lam after an unprecedented exodus of its residents. “From April 1, the Hong Kong government will lift the ban on flights to nine countries,” she said.

Since the appearance of the highly contagious Omicron variant in early January, the region of more than 7 million residents has experienced pandemic outbreaks despite severe social distancing measures. According to official reports, more than one lakh people have been infected and 5,600 deaths have been recorded, most of them in its illiterate elderly population. According to the researchers, half of the 7.4 million residents have already been infected.

Authorities in early January banned flights from eight countries: France, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Philippines, Pakistan and India, before adding Nepal in February.

a short quarantine period

The flight ban is “no longer appropriate”, Carrie Lam admitted. “The epidemic situation in these countries is no worse than in Hong Kong, and most of the visiting people do not show severe symptoms. Extending this measure will further increase the concerns of stranded Hong Kong residents. ,

He also announced that the mandatory hotel quarantine period for people coming from abroad and vaccinated would be reduced from two weeks to one week. However, it did not specify from what date the measure would come into force.

The chief executive also indicated that from April 19, kindergarten, primary and international schools will resume face-to-face education. From April 21, restaurants will be able to welcome customers back to their establishments after 6 p.m. and outdoor gatherings of up to four people will be re-authorised, up from two people at present.

The local government has been criticized from all sides for its handling of the crisis and its lack of preparedness, two years after the outbreak of COVID-19. With the arrival of Omicron, hospitals and morgues quickly filled up. Hong Kong is currently one of the developed regions with the highest case fatality rate.

Comprehensive Screening of “Not Suitable” Residents

Fears of a nationwide lockdown and mandatory testing sparked panic in February, with residents rushing to supermarkets to buy basic necessities, and leading to a record exodus of foreign and local residents. Hong Kong borders have seen a net balance of 134,000 departures since the start of the year.

On Monday, Carrie Lam said mass screening of residents at this stage was “not appropriate” given the city’s limited resources. “This process may also bring many inconveniences to our residents…. Our current opinion is to suspend it and the decision to do so or not depends on the evolution of the pandemic,” she said.

Hong Kong’s growing international isolation and lack of a roadmap for returning to normalcy has drawn criticism from the business community and diplomatic corps, even prompting some major international banks to speed up the process of relocation.

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