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Saturday, Nov 27, 2021

Nicole quarantine doubts with new curbs

Hong Kong authorities sidestepped a question on whether they will allow Hollywood stars like Nicole Kidman to return without quarantine following tightened border controls.
The Standard asked the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau whether it would grant her an exemption and it would only say that "the government will process applications from individuals in accordance with the quarantine exemption arrangement as stipulated in the Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation (Cap. 599E)."

From Friday (Nov 12), only a handful of groups deemed essential to the city’s operations will be granted quarantine-free entry. They include government officials, air and cargo ship crew, and cross-border truck drivers.

Most exemptions will be axed, including those for directors of listed companies and consular staff.

Kidman did not appear to fall into any category which enjoys exemptions even before rules were tightened. Bureau secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah has said the Oscar-winning star was exempted due to her project’s significant economic benefits to Hong Kong.

This was when it was revealed that the Australian star, 54, arrived in August to film the Amazon series Expats. She left in September after reportedly having differences of opinion with director Lulu Wang.

The plan was reportedly for her to return this month, but tightened rules may mean a further postponement to next year. Amazon Studios denied reports Kidman left the production early.

After the bureau sidestepped the question on Kidman, the Standard sent a follow up question asking if the bureau still enjoys the power to grant exemptions to cases of significant economic interest under the tightened regulations.

A spokesperson said the bureau had no additional information to provide and told The Standard to refer to the regulation.

Respiratory medicine expert Leung Chi-chiu believed the government still has the power to grant exemptions, and needs to consider three criteria for approval in each case.

"The government needs to think about the necessity of exemption, whether it can benefit Hong Kong’s economy and ensure the exempted individuals will not be able to enter local society," he said.

Kidman is an executive producer for the Expats series through her Blossom Films production company. The show is adapted from a Janice Lee novel The Expatriates, which talks about three women in the mostly American expat circle in Hong Kong.

She appeared at the Country Music Association Awards in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday night. Her husband, country star Keith Urban, performed at the ceremony.
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