Govt clarifies exemption arrangement

July 19, 2020

The Government today clarified that the existing exemption arrangement under the compulsory quarantine regime is essential to maintain the necessary operation of society and the economy and to ensure an uninterrupted supply of daily necessities.


The Government made the statement in response to criticisms that the quarantine exemption arrangement has brought about loopholes in the quarantine regime and that the latest wave of epidemic was attributable to the arrangement.


The statement emphasised that this is a misunderstanding.


The Government has been closely monitoring the risk and pressure on public health brought about by imported cases and would continue to adopt relevant coping measures in a resolute manner.


It pointed out that there had not been any confirmed COVID-19 cases among exempted people arriving from the Mainland, Macau and Taiwan.


Under the Compulsory Quarantine of Certain Persons Arriving at Hong Kong Regulation (Cap 599C) and the Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation (Cap 599E), all people arriving in Hong Kong, except those exempted by the Chief Secretary in accordance with provisions of the regulations, are subject to compulsory quarantine for 14 days.


The purpose of the two regulations is to suppress the passenger flow in order to minimise the risk of disease transmission into Hong Kong.


Nonetheless, the quarantine exemption arrangement must be in place to ensure the normal operation of Hong Kong on all fronts under the epidemic, including the need to safeguard adequate supply of food and necessities, ensure normal governmental operation and sustain commercial activities in the interest of Hong Kong's economic development.


The categories of people exempted under the regulations are essential personnel which include cross-boundary goods vehicle drivers, aircrew, sea crew and foreign consular staff.


The Government clarified that since early March, Hong Kong has not recorded any imported cases from the Mainland. As for imported cases from foreign places, as non-Hong Kong residents have been denied entry to Hong Kong since March 25, the majority of the current imported cases concern returning Hong Kong residents.


Since the implementation of the exemption mechanism, the Department of Health has been requiring exempted people to undergo medical surveillance for 14 days during their stay in Hong Kong.


People under medical surveillance are required to wear masks and check their temperatures twice daily. They must also report any discomfort to the department. In addition, exempted people are also subject to temperature checks and health declaration procedures carried out by the department at boundary control points upon arrival.


In light of the latest situation of the COVID-19 outbreak and on the premises of protecting the health of Hong Kong people and safeguarding the city's robust healthcare system, the Government has enhanced the testing arrangement for exempted people arriving in Hong Kong from foreign places.


Currently, people exempted from quarantine entering Hong Kong from Hong Kong International Airport are subject to COVID-19 testing in addition to undergoing medical surveillance for 14 days.


All aircrew and sea crew members must proceed to the Temporary Specimen Collection Centre at the AsiaWorld-Expo to have their deep throat saliva samples collected.


In view that aircrew members arriving in Hong Kong from overseas make up the largest group of exempted people, enhancing testing for this group of people can help further lower the chance of the virus’ spread in Hong Kong.


The Government has been imposing additional exemption conditions in accordance with the risk level of respective exemption categories.


Shipping companies have been requested to arrange all crew members of cargo ships and passenger vessels to undergo nucleic acid tests at the point of departure within 48 hours before travelling to Hong Kong.


Only those who are able to produce negative test results can travel to Hong Kong.


If the above conditions are not met, the crew member will not be granted exemption and will be denied entry into Hong Kong. The shipping agents must arrange isolated accommodation and point-to-point transfers to and from the vessel for sea crew members to ensure they will not enter public places.


Additionally, for the categories of exempted people arriving in Hong Kong from the Mainland, the regular COVID-19 testing arrangement has been put in place for cross-boundary goods vehicle drivers and cross-boundary students which form the two largest exemption categories.


Having regard to the latest public health risk assessment, the Government announced on July 18 to impose conditions on travellers who had visited the seven specified high-risk places of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and South Africa, to reduce the health risk they may bring to Hong Kong.


These conditions include the provision of a negative nucleic acid test result for COVID-19 and confirmation proof of a hotel room reservation.

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