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Hong Kong scraps some restrictions for travelers, ends contact tracing

By Kathleen Magramo, CNN

Hong Kong on Tuesday announced it would scrap some remaining restrictions on travelers and end contact tracing, after Beijing shifted away from its hardline zero-Covid stance.

The city’s health secretary is due to formally announce the removal of curbs on international visitors and the end of requirements to scan a government health app to enter public venues, the city’s leader John Lee told a regular news conference on Tuesday.

Lee said the measures will take effect from Wednesday, when travelers arriving in the city would no longer be issued an “amber code” barring them from entering restaurants and bars in their first three days. However, a vaccine requirement to enter venues including restaurants would remain, he added.

“There is no longer a need to scan the Leave Home Safe app, but we will keep the vaccine pass requirement for certain premises,” Lee said.

International arrivals are still required to undergo a PCR test on arrival in Hong Kong and on the second day of their visit, while mask wearing remains mandated in all public venues, including outdoors. Those testing positive must isolate.

The incremental easing of restrictions comes after Hong Kong removed mandatory quarantine for overseas travelers in September, following more than two and a half years of isolation that threatened its status as an international business hub and plunged the economy into recession.

Since 2021, people in Hong Kong have been required to scan a QR code using the government’s Leave Home Safe app before entering places like restaurants, bars and gyms.

Lee said one of the reasons for scrapping the measures was because the infection risk to the local community posed by imported cases was now lower.

China made a major pivot from its hardline zero-Covid position following protests across the country in November.

On Monday, authorities in China announced a deactivation of the “mobile itinerary card” health tracking function. The system, which is separate from the health code scanning system required in a number of places in China, had used cellphone data to track people’s travel histories in order to identify those who had visited cities with zones designated as “high-risk” by authorities.

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