HK-China border to reopen before year-end?

November 03, 2021 11:35
Photo: RTHK

Mirror, mirror on the wall, when will the gate of Hong Kong be open after all?

With US, Europe and Australia starting to open the door and let their citizens travel without quarantine, hopes are high that Hong Kong would follow suit, or at least allow some form of easier travel access.

The full border reopening to the rest of the world might still take a long path, but at least the gate to China that was closed since February 2020 might re-open partially before the end of this year.

According to local papers, there could be a weekly quota allowing quarantine-free travel to China for business purpose or family visit, among others.

To comply with the mainland standard, our officials are in final discussion with mainland counterparts to integrate the local contact-tracing app LeaveHomeSafe with the red, yellow and green health code adopted in China. A circuit breaking mechanism is also being planned.

Many citizens are anxiously waiting for more details. After all, who wants a three-week hotel stay – even if it is Hotel Peninsula?

Hong Kong has been maintaining near zero local Covid infections for nearly four months but the effective pandemic control does not help travelling.

International travelers from major countries are still subject to two to three weeks of quarantine.

What’s worse, quarantine exemptions for diplomats, businessmen, researchers and professionals will be scrapped from next Friday.

On the other side, neighbors such as Guangdong and Macao have delayed the opening door to Hong Kong with different excuses, taking heed of Beijing’s zero infection goal.

One of the latest excuses was the difference in tracking app, where the Hong Kong version cannot show the whereabouts of the users, presumably due to the privacy issue in Hong Kong.

To address mainland authorities’ concerns, the government has widened the mandatory use of the LeaveHomeSafe app to include government buildings, such as wet markets, libraries, and public hospitals.

Many locals would rather stay away from these venues to avoid the inconvenience.

It would probably create more nuisances if the government decides to make the app compulsory at all restaurants and shopping malls.

Still the hopes for access to mainland without quarantine would somehow mitigate the grievance from mandatory tracking app.

Any progress on border reopening could also be considered a big win for Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as it would probably increase her reelection chances.

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EJ Insight writer