Hong Kong’s granting of a quarantine exemption to Hollywood star Nicole Kidman was drawing criticism from lawmakers as the city tightens entry restrictions for international travellers to control the coronavirus.
Kidman, who reportedly flew to Hong Kong last week from coronavirus-hit Sydney, was exempted from a weeklong quarantine and was spotted in the city this week filming a new Amazon Prime Video series titled Expats, according to local media reports.
The government said in a statement on Thursday that it had granted the exemption “for the purpose of performing designated professional work.”
It said the work was “conducive to maintaining the necessary operation and development of Hong Kong’s economy.”
Some Hong Kong residents viewed the exemption as unfair.
“For me it’s like if they (the government) already made a policy, or restrictions, we have to follow the restrictions, even though that you are a celebrity or whoever you are,” said Ran Criste, student from Philippines.
Some Hong Kong lawmakers also criticized the decision.
“Our athletes who came back from the Tokyo Olympics were required to have seven days of quarantine. Once you have this precedent, all the celebrities coming to Hong Kong for filming should be exempted. If not, how can you explain why Nicole Kidman is superior to others,” said Michael Tien.
“Nicole Kidman’s exemption case is not just about politics, it involves the health security issue and is a matter of unfairness,” said lawmaker Priscilla Leung.
Leung said she herself was not exempted from quarantine when a family member was infected with the coronavirus.
Kidman’s exemption comes as the Hong Kong government has tightened entry requirements for travelers, adding 15 countries including the US to the high-risk category and requiring vaccinated travelers from medium-risk countries to spend 14 days in quarantine effective Friday.
Previously, those traveling from medium-risk countries could quarantine for just seven days in a designated hotel if they had a valid vaccination record and a positive COVID-19 antibodies test.
Authorities say Kidman is obliged to comply with virus rules in Hong Kong, and is required to submit an itinerary and travel in a private vehicle to avoid contact with the public.
“With this exemption, it doesn’t mean that she can go anywhere she wants,” Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development, said on Friday.