Wristbands tracking your location. Pages of health declarations and forms. A rapid test and stay at a government-sanctioned hotel. A 14-day mandatory quarantine with the threat of jail time. And through it all, nearly empty planes and airports.
Welcome to Hong Kong during the coronavirus pandemic. CNN Reporter Will Ripley (and others) have cataloged the intense experience of re-entering the island as it tries to keep coronavirus under wraps. Ripley said returning to his home in Hong Kong from Tokyo typically takes just five hours. His trip home this week lasted 21 hours.
Read and watch Ripley's experience in this Twitter thread or on his Instagram feed. It's simultaneously amazing, frightening, and more than a little bit sad that this is how much international travel has changed in just a few months. Click Ripley's tweet to see his entire thread on the experience.
The journey from Tokyo to Hong Kong normally takes me about five hours. It’s now been 19 hours since I left Narita airport and I’m still not home, as I await my COVID-19 test result. This is what international travel is like during the coronavirus pandemic. (Thread) pic.twitter.com/mjO0N3PUil
— Will Ripley (@willripleyCNN) May 15, 2020
To be sure, it won't look like this everywhere. Hong Kong (and several other Asian nations) have successfully employed far more drastic measures to curb the spread of coronavirus than many countries are willing to enact. As of Friday, Hong Kong had reported just over 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and only four deaths. The special administrative region of China reported its first new case in nearly a month this week.
And odds are, it won't even look like this forever in Hong Kong. But travel is changing before our eyes, and it's safe to say even more changes are coming.
Iceland is planning to re-open to international travelers by mid-June. It'll require an onsite coronavirus test, a recent negative test result, or a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all arrivals. Plus, everyone will have to download an Icelandic contact tracing smartphone app.
Other countries like Greece may not impose those front-end restrictions when it re-opens sometime this summer. But it could limit entry to residents from countries that have successfully fended off coronavirus – leaving those that have not, like the U.S., out in the cold.
With all the uncertainty surrounding travel and coronavirus, one thing is certain: International travel is going to get harder. It won't look like this in every country, but Hong Kong's entry procedures provide an interesting glimpse into the future – at least in the near term.