Hong Kong lengthens quarantines for 16 countries

Hong Kong will tighten entry restrictions for travelers arriving from the United States and 15 other countries beginning Friday, extending the quarantine period to 21 days.People wearing face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus walk on a downtown street in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Hong Kong will tighten entry restrictions for travelers arriving from the United States and 14 other countries from Friday, increasing the quarantine period to 21 days. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)People wearing face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus walk on a downtown street in Hong Kong.

Previously, the 15 countries, which also include Malaysia, Thailand, France and the Netherlands, were classified as medium-risk, with travelers able to serve only 7 days of quarantine if they were fully vaccinated and tested positive for antibodies prior to leaving for the city.

A resurgence of coronavirus cases in these countries due to the delta variant led the to be recategorized as high high-risk and stricter measures imposed, as the government sought to “uphold the local barrier against the importation of Covid-19,” it said in a statement.

The changes come after a domestic worker who had returned to Hong Kong from the U.S. earlier this month tested positive for the coronavirus, despite receiving two shots of vaccine and testing positive for antibodies.

Also Friday, the mandatory quarantine period was extended from 7 to 14 days for fully-vaccinated travelers with a positive antibody test arriving from Australia, now categorized as medium-risk. Quarantine requirements for New Zealand, which is the only country considered low-risk, remain at seven days for fully-vaccinated passengers.People wearing face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus walk on a downtown street in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Hong Kong will tighten entry restrictions for travelers arriving from the United States and 14 other countries from Friday, increasing the quarantine period to 21 days. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Hong Kong’s “zero-Covid” strategy has seen authorities impose strict border restrictions and ban flights from extremely high-risk countries, in the hopes that no local community spread would allow it to re-open borders with mainland China.

The city had nearly two months of no cases within the local community, but its streak was broken earlier this month when a 43-year-old construction worker with no travel history was found to have antibodies in his blood despite not being vaccinated – indicating that he was probably infected some time ago.

Hong Kong has recorded a total of 12,037 coronavirus infections since the pandemic began, with 212 deaths.

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