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Hong Kong Drops Curbs on Incoming Travelers, Scraps COVID App

A QR code for the "LeaveHomeSafe" COVID-19 contact-tracing app is seen inside a shopping mall in Hong Kong, China, Dec 13, 202
A QR code for the "LeaveHomeSafe" COVID-19 contact-tracing app is seen inside a shopping mall in Hong Kong, China, Dec 13, 202

Arrivals in Hong Kong will be free from COVID-19 movement restrictions from Wednesday and no longer barred from certain venues, Chief Executive John Lee said, adding that the city will also scrap a government-mandated COVID-19 mobile application.

The news of a further loosening of COVID-19 curbs in the global financial hub, which has trailed most of the world in easing them, may boost resumption of travel and business.

An amber code issued to international arrivals for their first three days in Hong Kong meant they were not allowed to eat or drink inside bars and restaurants.

From Wednesday, travelers and all residents coming from overseas will be allowed into all locales provided they test negative for COVID-19 on arrival, Lee said.

The government's move to scrap its mobility-tracking app, which grants access to restaurants and venues such as gyms, clubs and salons, comes after mainland China dropped the requirement.

Business groups, diplomats and many residents had slammed Hong Kong's COVID-19 rules, saying they threatened its competitiveness and standing as an international financial center.

The rules have weighed on Hong Kong's economy since early 2020, speeding up an exodus of businesses, expatriates and local families who departed amid a drive by Beijing to more closely control the former British colony.

Hong Kong has closely followed China's zero-COVID policy since 2020 but began gradually easing restrictions in August, cutting mandated hotel quarantine to three days before scrapping it completely in September, more than 2-1/2 years after the infection emerged.

The amber code was the last remaining restriction on arrivals, who will still be subject to a mandatory COVID PCR test on arrival and one more after.

Masks are still mandated across the city, unless exercising. Group gatherings of more than 12 people are banned, but people can still go to nightclubs and attend banquets where hundreds of people are present.

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