COVID-19: A slew of destinations are lifting restrictions including, Hong Kong, Canada, Japan and Taiwan
The rich soup of different regulations about entry to many countries is beginning to run clear. Here is a recent selection of countries that are beginning to re-open with nearly pre-pandemic openness.
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As of October 1, the following restrictions will be dropped:
- Masks are no longer required on flights
- Vaccination no longer required for air travel in Canada
- ArriveCAN app for international travellers will be optional
- No health checks or random testing on arrival in Canada
- Unvaccinated Canadians no longer required to isolate on their return to Canada
Canada, which treated the whole pandemic more seriously (similar to Australia) than its neighbour the USA has maintained their restrictions during the northern summer, keeping the infection rate low. This will give them a good entry into Autumn and Winter – which with more people indoors, is expected to see an increase in infections. That’s a good reason to keep your mask on, although it is no longer compulsory.
The disruptive sibling of China, Hong Kong has been badly affected by the pandemic but has largely not been subject to the extreme lockdowns of its parent. However, the severe restrictions on travellers, even those transiting through the island state have devastated the tourism and airline industries based there.
Hong Kong is reducing restrictions but not eliminating them. You will still need:
- A pre-flight RAT (rapid antigen test) – returning a negative result within 24 hours of departure for Hong Kong. Formerly a PCR test was required.
- Need to fill out a health declaration form
- Have a PCR test on arrival, but now you can head to your hotel before receiving your results
- Daily RAT test for 3 days (arrival day is Day 0) and a PCR test on Day 2
- Leave Home Safe App must be activated, and will prevent you from visiting a range of venues including restaurants – effectively making it pseudo quarantine.
- Continue daily RATs from days 4 to 6, including PCR tests on days 4 and 6.
If you test positive, it’s into a quarantine hotel or other isolation facility for you. So although restrictions have relaxed, it’s still a bit of a risk to contemplate entering Hong Kong unless you really have to. The App will change colour from amber during the first 3 days to blue if you continue to test negative, and those colours will determine which venues you can and can’t enter. Check the Department of Health coronavirus website for more details.
The land of the rising sun will return to visa-free entry from 11 October 2022. No testing, no vaccination or quarantine requirements. This is a return to pre-pandemic conditions. Japanese have been largely unrestricted for a while, despite some bad outbreaks. Remember the Olympics? Much as I love Japan, there is no escaping their (however friendly), deeply xenophobic attitude toward foreigners – which led to excluding them for so long.
15 October is the day when Taiwan will end quarantine requirements for visitors. That’s to be followed by a staged elimination of mask mandates in public spaces. Visa-free travel will be returned to visitors from Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, and the EU.
This is all good news for Taiwan-based airlines: China Airlines, EVA Air and Starlux. It also bodes well for the foreshadowed direct route from Australia to Taipei, Taiwan that Qantas and Jetstar have approval to commence on 12 December 2022.
It’s good to see things getting back to normal, however, I personally would feel more comfortable if more people wore masks while travelling, and I would still be insisting on the vaccination of all travellers. But, unfortunately, I don’t rule any of these countries, let alone the world.
I suppose my beef is that having demonstrated mostly appropriate caution throughout the pandemic based on medical advice, this abandonment of health precautions for political and economic purposes will come back to bite us in sickness, death and absenteeism rates of travel workers. And that will be just as much a drain on the economy as the closure, quarantine and isolation of countries has been.
It’s already happened here in Australia, and over in Europe and other parts of the world. It feels like we can’t find the appropriate balance between health and economic concerns. We, or at least our politicians and public policy bureaucrats should be able to do that.