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This 8-hour health screening could be the new norm for international travel

May 14, 2020
4 min read
This 8-hour health screening could be the new norm for international travel
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Hong Kong was part of the initial wave of countries impacted by the coronavirus, and has closed its borders to non-residents since March. However, locals are still allowed to enter — with a number of caveats, including an incredibly stringent health screening process.

Related: A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Hong Kong-based journalist Laurel Chor documented her experience at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) May 14 after traveling from Paris (CDG) by way of London (LHR). The newly implemented COVID-19 screening process resulted in an eight-hour wait, which she described in detail on Twitter.

Chor reported that, upon arrival, she first had to fill out a quarantine order as well as a good-health declaration before downloading a health tracking app to her phone. She was also issued a bracelet with a registered tracker.

A health department official looked through all of Chor's documents, pointed out that she could exit her quarantine on May 28 if she stayed healthy, then showed her how to track any symptoms as well as her temperature. He also issued her a thermometer to use at home. Chor was also asked to report her method of transportation home, including license plate number of the vehicle.

After Chor and her fellow passengers collected their baggage, a series of buses transported them to the Asia World Expo convention center, where they left their luggage in one area and picked up identification tags before being shuttled to another part of the center to receive a 30-page bilingual packet of information and provide a test sample. Each passenger received a unique number and had to wait their turn for the self-test, which required deep-throat saliva self-collected within semi-private screening booths.

Once the samples had been collected, the long wait for test results began. Chor described 16 rows of 12 individual tables and chairs per row set up at safe distances from each other, 192 in total, sprinkled throughout the vast exhibition hall. Sandwiches and bottled water were distributed to each passenger, with crackers and more water offered later on. Chor noticed one sanitation error: One worker accepted an exchanged sandwich and put it back into the food cart. She noted that the workers did their best to avoid stating a number for wait times, but admitted that the process could take up to eight hours.

Chor finally got her test results well past the six-hour waiting mark: Negative for COVID-19. She was released to her waiting family, and will be allowed to leave her home after 14 days if she remains healthy. Chor noted that breaking her quarantine for any reason would be subject to a potential fine of up to $3,225 and up to six months in jail.

Chor's full experience, as documented on Twitter, can be read here.

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While Hong Kong's all-day screening process is undeniably rigorous, strict health protocols will likely become the new norm for post-COVID-19 travel around the world, just as heightened security and baggage restrictions became the norm following 9/11. South Korea already has similarly stringent protocols in place, according to one recent traveler, and many other East Asian countries such as Taiwan already have temperature screening and hygienic procedures in place throughout their airports.

The impact of such screening procedures will be momentous for the travel industry: People may become more reluctant to travel not just because of safety concerns, but also because a two-week quarantine is unrealistic for nearly any vacationer. At least in some destinations such as Iceland, travelers will be able to wait on their test results from the comfort of their hotel or Airbnb.

Related: Your summer trip to Iceland may be back on

Related: Greece is planning to open to tourists

Related: This iconic beach destination just banned cruises until 2022

Feature image by Michel Porro/Newsmakers.

Featured image by Getty Images

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  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights. Plus enjoy Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding and settle into your seat sooner.
  • New: Card Members get 15% off when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights through delta.com and the Fly Delta app. Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
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  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enjoy a per-visit rate of $50 per person for Card Members and up to two guests to enter the Delta Sky Club when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
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  • $250 Annual Fee.
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  • See Rates & Fees