A 23-year-old student tested positive after visiting many places, including the Hyatt Centric Victoria Harbour Hong Kong in North Point. Photo: Google Maps

Visitors to Hong Kong from everywhere except China will be isolated in hotels for 14 days from Friday instead of being allowed to be home quarantined, the special administrative region government says.

Currently, travelers from 15 high-risk countries, including India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Indonesia, South Africa and the United States are required to present a document to show they have pre-ordered hotel rooms for two weeks before they leave for Hong Kong.

If five or more Covid-19 patients are on the same flight or three or more patients are on consecutive flights from a high-risk country, Hong Kong will suspend the route for two weeks, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said Wednesday.

Air crews must be tested within the 48 hours before their departure and take another test after arriving in Hong Kong, Chan said.

Consulate staff, except consul-generals or higher-rank officials, from high-risk countries must be isolated for 14 days after they arrive in Hong Kong. People who are exempted from being quarantined for 14 days must not use public transport.

Meanwhile, the government also announced the introduction of a “Return2hk Scheme” in which Hong Kong residents returning from Guangdong province or Macau could be exempted from the 14-day quarantine.

The scheme will start from November 23. A quota will control the number of cross-boundary travelers in the initial stage. A daily quota of 3,000 has been set for the Shenzhen Bay Port, while that for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Port is 2,000.

From November 22, the travel bubble scheme between Hong Kong and Singapore will begin and will allow up to 200 people on one flight to travel between the cities per day. From December 7, the number of flights will double. If there are more than five local cases with unknown sources in either place each day on average in a week, the scheme will be suspended.

Yuen Chun-ning, chief executive of WWPKG Holdings travel agency, said it’s hard to predict whether the travel bubble will be welcomed by Hong Kong people as a four-day trip to Singapore would cost HK$6,000 (US$774), 50% more than normal, due to the virus testing fees.

George Leung, chief executive of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, said the business sector welcomed the travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore and the Return2hk Scheme. Leung said he hoped the travel bubble would cover Australia and New Zealand in the next phase.

The Center for Health Protection said Wednesday that 18 cases were recorded within the 24 hours on Tuesday, including 15 imported cases and three local infections with no known sources. Apart from these, five drivers tested positive preliminarily.

One local case involved a 23-year-old Baptist University student who during the incubation period went on staycations at the Hyatt Centric Victoria Harbor Hong Kong and the Royal Plaza Hotel in Mong Kok. She went to taekwondo practice in Sham Shui Po, Cheung Sha Wan, Fortress Hill and Wong Chuk Hang.

The patient also went to a dental clinic in Mong Kok, had a facial in Tuen Mun, and ate at a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant in Sham Shui Po.

The Centre for Health Protection’s Chuang Shuk-kwan said authorities were still carrying out contact-tracing for the student, and that a number of close contacts – including the dentist – would be sent to quarantine. Chuang said it was difficult to establish which activities were considered high-risk given that the student did so many things during the incubation period.

The other two local cases with no known source involved a 76-year-old man in Kwai Shing, and a 44-year-old male project manager at the Grandtech Centre in Shek Mun.

From November 16, people in Hong Kong can download a mobile app called “LeaveHomeSafe,” which aims to encourage the public to keep a more precise record of their whereabouts and minimise the risk of further virus transmission.

More than 6,000 public and private venues have backed the scheme. The app can also be used directly in more than 18,000 taxis. Users can check into venues by scanning the venue QR code to log their arrival time and clicking the “Leave” button in the app to mark their departure. Relevant data will then be kept in the app inside the user’s phone.

Read: HK-Singapore ‘travel bubble’ starts on November 22