Just when can we go to China without quarantine?

November 12, 2020 09:31
Photo: RTHK

Finally, some good news.

Hong Kong government is relaxing the travel restriction on residents who want to return to the city. Starting 23 November, a maximum of 5,000 Hong Kong residents who are now in Guangdong or Macao will be allowed to return to Hong Kong without going through the 14-day quarantine.

Specifically, there will be 3,000 quotas in the Shenzhen Bay checkpoint, and 2,000 in the Hong Kong- Zhuhai-Macao Bridge checkpoint.

However, this does not work the other way round. Hongkongers fancy going to mainland could still cross the border but they will have to be quarantined for two weeks.

Well, that is because Hong Kong is still trailing behind the acceptable standard for travel compared to other cities in Greater Bay Area.

According to local media, talks between the Hong Kong government and its peer in Guangdong and Macao hit a snag because Hong Kong is still considered a high-risk area.

Too bad! Where is the sense of brotherhood?

On the other hand, Hong Kong finds it closer with Singapore, the first country it has made the so-called air bubble arrangement with, as both cities stand to open borders as soon as next Sunday (22 November).

The scheme will start with one flight per day in the first 15 days and then progress to two daily flights thereafter as long as implementation goes smoothly and the covid-19 situation stays under control.

But the mainland seems to be more cautious towards Hong Kong travelers. Apparently, the Guangdong government insists Hong Kong has to report zero cases for 14 consecutive days before opening its gates to Hong Kong.

Macao holds a similar stance in the bilateral cross-border arrangement. The casino city holds a clean record of no local infection for months.

Alvis Lo Iek Long, clinical director at Macao public health facility Conde S. Januário Hospital Centre said Macao is still exploring if Macao residents can get exempted on quarantine requirement but it should only be allowed when the two cities have similar pandemic situation to protect the health of citizen, according to reports.

Hong Kong has been able to keep the daily average number of reported covid-19 cases to single-digit over past 14 days, and there were more imported cases than local cases in the period. But still it is not good enough for the Guangdong standard.

It was reported that Chief Executive Carrie Lam, in her Beijing trip last week, proposed to Guangdong to allow gate opening with Hong Kong maintaining the medium-risk status, meaning less than 10 cases per day in a 14-day period.

However, Guangdong stood firm on the consecutive 14-day clean status in worry of a fourth wave during winter.

If that is the case, that would be bad news for the traditional tourist districts such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay.

Staycation will still be the main theme for the rest of the year, and it is rather difficult to book a decent weekend buffet.

But more importantly Hong Kong people who long for cheap shopping and massage in Shenzhen and a relaxing and delicious experience in Macao, might just need to be more patient after 10 months of wait.

Well, one can still go if they can withstand the dual quarantine arrangement. I have friends who chose to be quarantined in exchange for the freedom of business travelling in China. One of them told me Wuhan is a lot more crowded than it was earlier this year.

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EJ Insight writer