Hong Kong on Tuesday announced that it would no longer require residents to use a scanning app to enter venues and that overseas arrivals could now visit bars and restaurants from the moment they land in a further easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
But authorities confirmed they were keeping a host of other rules including mandatory PCR checks for overseas arrivals, daily testing of school children, and compulsory mask wearing.
The latest measures come as authorities in mainland China navigate a rapid turn away from its zero-tolerance coronavirus strategy.
Hong Kong has been allowed to pursue a lighter version of China’s zero-Covid strategy but it has still kept in place a raft of restrictions that most of the world has long since abandoned.
For much of the pandemic entry to public and commercial venues has been controlled by an app called “LeaveHomeSafe” that is linked to their vaccination status.
Residents have to scan QR codes to enter most premises and may only do so if fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile since September, when Hong Kong finally abandoned mandatory quarantine for all overseas arrivals, those flying into the city have been banned from entering bars and restaurants for the first three days while they undergo tests.
At his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Hong Kong chief executive John Lee said both those measures were now being scrapped.
“We have made these two decisions because we have considered the data and the risks,” he told reporters, adding the new rules will come into effect on Wednesday.
The move will be a boost for businesses at a time when Hong Kong’s recession-mired economy is suffering from more than two years of self-imposed isolation.