Will reverse isolation work for cross-border travel?

August 31, 2022 15:39
Photo: AFP

All curious minds wonder why Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s two-day visit to Guangzhou and Shenzhen starting today was cancelled and what it would mean for the widely anticipated border reopening this year.

After more than two years of border closure between Hong Kong and China, hopes are high that Lee could push through a proposal of “reverse isolation” under which Hongkongers could quarantine in the city before crossing the border.

Who can forget China’s cruel three-week quarantine (two weeks in hotel and one week of home monitoring) until late June followed by the current enhanced version of seven-day centralized quarantine followed by three days of home?

Now, what if one can stay in The Peninsula or Mandarin for reverse isolation before going to China?

Not a bad idea for the extended staycation, which some Hong Kong people are already falling in love with as an alternative to outbound travel.

Who wants to stay in China if there is Hong Kong, where one can access free information such as Facebook and Google and tasty local delicacies?

More importantly, travellers to mainland China could not pick their hotels for quarantine. Depending on the provincial policy, some travellers might have to withstand the isolation without Meituan delivery or Alibaba’s Taobao at different periods of time.

It goes without saying cross-border travel would take off again once the reverse isolation policy takes effect, given the border closure since February 2020 has caused great inconvenience to all walks of life in Hong Kong.

Some families were not able to get together even during Moon Festival, a signature family gathering festival due again next week.

Earlier this week, Chief Secretary Eric Chan Kwok-ki said mainland authorities are open to the idea of “reverse isolation” to expand the quota for visitors from Hong Kong to China.

Hong Kong has been working with Beijing to allow some 8,000 students to go to mainland China on time for the new school year in September amid tough travel curbs.

Meanwhile, August is a breakthrough for travellers to Hong Kong as the seven-day hotel quarantine was down to three days in hotels and four-day home stay since August 8.

A noticeable amount of mainlanders are seen in Hong Kong this summer after the travel relaxation. Living in Causeway Bay, I met quite a few mainland tourists asking for directions, a good sign that tourism is picking up.

It is expected that a seven-day homestay, or even no quarantine, is on the horizon ahead of the Global Financial Leaders' Investment Summit on 1 November when top businessmen worldwide are supposed to come here, but a daily infected case of close to 10,000 in the past week could thwart any further relaxation.

We certainly hope for the best.

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EJ Insight writer