I cheekily made the title “Hong Kong Shoves Aside Most COVID-19 Restrictions” because I’m a bit cynical about many places entirely eliminating pandemic entry requirements. However, compared to what Hong Kong mandated just a couple of months ago, this is a huge improvement.
Coincidentally, my first visit to Hong Kong happened during the SARS outbreak. It was 2003, and I was a courier — back when that was a thing — in charge of who-knows-what from the United States. I was looking forward to yum cha (tea and dim sum), checking out Victoria’s Peak, and visiting the other-worldly Tiger Balm Gardens at the Haw Par Mansion (虎豹別墅), which I first learned about playing the video game Super Street Fighter. Seriously. Those Tiger Balm scions had quite the imagination.
The yum cha was delicious, and Victoria’s Peak was great, but it wasn’t all a success; the Haw Par Mansion had recently closed, awaiting demolishment.
Nevertheless, it was from that one trip I knew I wanted to go back again. And back I went, to study abroad in Hong Kong, and to work right across the border in Shenzhen. HKG became my 2nd-most used airport in the world, and Chungking Mansions, my place for kebabs, jollof rice, and paratha.
My last visit to Hong Kong was in November 2019, so like many others, I’ve been hawk-eyed watching how its entry regulations have changed since early 2020.
In fact, Hong Kong lifted the ban for non-residents this past 1 May, but with so many tests, a requirement to stay in one’s room for days, and the threat of being sent to a quarantine facility in case of a positive result on arrival, very few non-locals took the plunge.
And now for the good news. Basically in tandem with China’s abrupt reopening on 8 January, Hong Kong has greatly reduced its entry rules as of 29 December, in other words, yesterday:
All you need now is proof of a vaccination against COVID-19, and a test taken within 24 hours (rapid antigen) or 48 hours (PCR) of approaching Hong Kong border control. Oh … and the elephant in the room, you still need to mask up, even if you can take liberties in how you cover your nose and mouth.
Although Chinatowns had been a fine substitute when restrictions were merciless, it’s time to get back and appreciate my old stomping grounds.