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Hong Kong will allow vaccinated tourists from all but 10 places in the world to enter the city from August 9, in a significant easing of some of the tightest border curbs in the world.

Vaccinated visitors from countries now categorized as “medium-risk" -- which includes the U.S. and Canada -- will be able to come to the city for the first time since the pandemic started. Meanwhile, Hong Kong residents from previously banned places like the U.K. and India can now return home.

Visitors and residents from medium-risk places will be asked to spend seven days in hotel quarantine upon entry and they must possess a positive antibody test at a laboratory recognized by the Hong Kong government to prove they are vaccinated against Covid-19. Antibody testing facilities at the airport will be available from mid-August, according to a government statement.

The easing, first announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Monday without detail, also allows children who are not eligible for vaccination to leave hotel quarantine with their inoculated parents after seven days -- though they must then self-isolate at home for another two weeks.

The revived plan, first mooted in June, comes as Hong Kong tries to reopen its economy after nearly two months without local transmission, while keeping out the highly contagious delta strain that’s driving new outbreaks around the world.

Though low vaccination levels locally means that delta slipping into the city could quickly become catastrophic, the financial hub is also facing pressure from businesses to relax what are some of the most onerous travel curbs in the world. Rival hub Singapore has said it will ease travel curbs in September after an inoculation rate of 80% is achieved there.

The easing leaves only 10 places in the world, including the U.K., India and Brazil, that vaccinated visitors are not allowed to come from. For these “high-risk" places, only fully inoculated residents can return and they must serve a hotel quarantine period of 21 days.

The Hong Kong government also dialed up the pressure on the local population to get vaccinated, saying that only schools which achieve a 70% vaccination level among students in the grade can fully resume in-person teaching in September. Teachers must also get inoculated or go for regular testing at their own expense, officials said Monday.

Vaccine bookings jumped on Monday after officials announced the easing, with the number of people reserving slots to get the Sinovac Biotech Ltd. shot growing to 6,600 on Monday from 4,200 on Sunday and those for the BioNTech SE vaccine rising to 41,600 from 23,100 a day ago.


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