AC 15 Arrival COVID processing in Hong Kong
(Toronto - Seoul - Hong Kong)
12 November 2021

As part of Hong Kong's COVID 0 strategy to stamp out imported cases, arriving passengers are subject to rigorous testing and monitoring at the airport before being sent to a designated quarantine hotel. While fully-vaccinated passengers get a small break with up to 7 days shorter quarantine, I wasn't looking forward to my 14 days in isolation. By contrast, Canada doesn't impose any quarantine for fully-vaccinated arrivals.

But then, Hong Kong's vaccination rate isn't too high, and with a densely-populated cityscape, any small transmission into the community could blow up into a major outbreak very quickly.

The arrival processing is quite organized and structured - typical of Hong Kong's efficiency. This part will detail what to expect when you leave the plane and step into the city.

Terminal map adapted from the airport website

Upon exiting the plane into the terminal, I had to go through a multi-stage process to get tested for COVID before entering Hong Kong.

Stage 1
Head to the midfield concourse terminal, which has been converted into a COVID testing centre. From the gate, head towards the people mover station. Lines were set up to control the passenger flow. It was a short wait before we were let down to the platform. While the lines had yellow markings for social distancing, I didn't see any on the train itself.

Upon arriving, I noticed a few cleaners who were ready to board after we got off to disinfect the train.

Stage 2
At the midfield concourse terminal, you first have to show the QR code from the health declaration. There is an area where you can step aside to complete one if you haven't yet, although Toronto check-in had required it to be completed. So I just screenshot the code into my phone beforehand and I was through this checkpoint quickly.

Stage 3
I then proceeded upstairs to the departure level for registration. It was a long walk to the southern end of the building. They verified my QR code again and I was given a green card with a bar code to wear around my neck, then proceeded to do the nose and throat swab test.

Stage 4
After the test, I proceeded to the next station where they asked for my phone number and would call me to see if I can receive the call. I thought it was strange because they didn't scan my bar code for the phone number, which was on my declaration and that they should be verifying. By now, the route has looped around and I was on my way back to the middle of the terminal where it all started.

Stage 5
I would next meet a health officer, who checked my pre-departure documents, including the COVID test result from Canada, the laboratory's accredition, and hotel reservation. I was then issued a quarantine notice letter with my details and quarantine hotel information, along with an information booklet that included a daily temperature tracking sheet, as well as a thermometer. He told me they won't actively check that tracking sheet and it was for my personal record only. Interestingly, I noticed the quarantine would end at 23:59 on the 14th day, so theoretically I could go home to spend the 14th night even though the entry requirement is to book 14 nights of quarantine hotel.

Stage 6
Now I was instructed to walk to the northern end of the terminal, where our flight's passengers would sit at Gate 202. Desks and chairs were set up throughout the gate areas in socially-distanced spacing. We all had to wait for our test results. Sandwiches, Ritz biscuits, and bottles of water were available. Each passenger is assigned a seat, with the location sticker placed on the green card worn around your neck. Washrooms are outside the gate area, where you could freely walk to. I didn't notice charge ports at my desk though, but luckily I charged everything on the plane expecting a wait here.

By now it was 9:45am, about an hour and a half since landing. I was happy I got a window seat that looked to the north runway and Tuen Mun in the distance. The landing runway switched direction by the time I sat down so I could see planes coming in and taxiing to the gate. There wasn't a lot of activity but that kept me busy for a while.

Stage 7
After browsing the net and not even depleting the battery, staff came to distribute back my quarantine order. It was stamped "checked" on it, and I could pack up and leave. By now it was 11:52am. The 2 hour wait was very reasonable and we then proceeded to gate 210, where staff scanned our quarantine order and we descended down the jetbridge back to the arrivals level to take the train to the main terminal. Walking down the bridge made me feel like I'm boarding the plane again.

Stage 8
Back at the main terminal, we went through the standard immigration formalities. Our luggage had already been taken off the belt and neatly placed next to it for us to collect. By now it was 12:17pm.

Stage 9
After exiting customs, staff checked and directed quarantine order passengers to exit left for shuttle bus registration. Airport workers would exit into freedom to the right. At the registration counter, they stuck a label onto my green card for the bus line. They would release the line to the elevators for boarding at street level.

All checked luggage was sprayed before staff loaded them onto the bus. I just took my hand carry to board, with only 1 person seated in each row of 2 seats even if you are travelling with a companion. Why this matters when the 2 could have been sitting next to each other on the plane is beyond me. A staff followed the bus for the journey to the quarantine hotel. Upon arrival, they will unload the baggage and you have to wait on the bus until they call for you to get off, and you will need to show your quarantine order again to check into the hotel.

The bus would make a few stops and I would finally arrive at my hotel just shy of 2pm.

The entire workflow is quite well-designed and eliminates any possibility of a passenger mingling with the outside world to reach the quarantine hotel, or to escape along the way. However, I do hope Hong Kong will relax its quarantine requirement and open up to the world of vaccinated passengers sooner rather than later.

AC 15 First Leg (Toronto - Seoul) | AC 15 Second Leg (Seoul - Hong Kong)
Flight Reports Main

To re-use these photos or notify of errors, please email me. Thank you.