Hong Kong works to reopen mainland border

The government hopes to stop asking travelers to quarantine next month, and the border with the rest of China may reopen before the end of the year.

Photo from CFP

Photo from CFP

By ZHANG Xilong


Hong Kong is thinking about eliminating hotel quarantine for international travelers by November. Health Secretary Lo Chung-mau said in an interview on Saturday that the government was positive about reducing the current “3+4” – three days at a hotel, four days at home – quarantine regime and replacing it with seven days of home monitoring. There has been no increase in imported cases since “3+4” was introduced.

New daily cases have been consistently below 9000, and the viral load in sewage has also been declining, Lo said. The risk of an outbreak is low, and the government will keep monitoring. If case counts continue to drop, some social distancing measures will be removed as well. 

The “3+4” regime was introduced in August to replace seven days of hotel quarantine. In April, Hong Kong lifted a ban on flights from nine countries and reduced hotel quarantine time from two weeks to one. Au Ka Wing, another public health official, said on Sunday that the general direction is more in line with international practice. 

A poll this month showed that 71 percent of people making less money because of the pandemic. Over half want the government to prioritize reopening the border with the rest of China. Many Southeast Asian countries including Singapore have removed quarantine requirements for incoming travelers. International companies and organizations have been urging Hong Kong to do the same. 

The government is preparing for many conferences, exhibitions and events scheduled in October and November. The city has already canceled its annual marathon and saw an international dragon boat race move to Thailand. An organizer said the race may leave Hong Kong for good if there was “no clarity on when the border would reopen.”

Tourism is in dire need of a revival. The number of tourists hasn’t increased much since the “3+4” regime was implemented. HK airport opened its third runway in July, but passenger volume is only 10 percent of pre-pandemic levels, although cargo volume increased a little in 2021. 

The government is working on opening the border between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland before the end of the year. Right now, 1,500 travelers are allowed into Shenzhen from Hong Kong every day. Fast trains connecting Hong Kong and Guangzhou haven’t run for two years.