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Travel links with SARs to fully reopen

By WILLIAM XU and XI TIANQI in Hong Kong | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-02-04 06:43

People arrive at the Lok Ma Chau Control Point in Hong Kong before traveling to neighboring Shenzhen, South China, Jan 8, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

All curbs on trips between mainland and HK, Macao to be lifted on Monday

After three years of waiting, travelers between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong and Macao can enjoy quarantine-free, quota-free and test-free cross-border travel starting from Monday, with all checkpoints due to be reopened.

Hong Kong's business leaders and representatives of other sectors hailed it as a great boost to the revival of Hong Kong's economy, the deepening of cross-border exchanges and bonds, and Hong Kong's further integration into the nation's development.

According to a circular issued on Friday by the State Council's Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism — the country's top COVID-19 control task force — cross-border travel between the mainland and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao would fully resume from Monday.

The current quota limit for Hong Kong-mainland travel will be scrapped and passengers will no longer need to make reservations before crossing the border. Group tours between the mainland and Hong Kong and Macao would also resume from Monday.

Travelers from Hong Kong and Macao to the mainland will no longer need to provide proof of a negative test if they haven't traveled to Taiwan or overseas over the past seven days. If they have recently traveled to Taiwan or overseas, they will still need to provide proof of a negative test within 48 hours, the circular said.

From Jan 8, Hong Kong resumed initial stage quarantine-free travel with the mainland, and capped the daily quota of cross-border passengers at 75,000. Currently, eight border control points have reopened so far.

At a news conference on Friday following the national task force's announcement, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said that all of the city's checkpoints with the mainland will be reopened.

Hong Kong will end the COVID test requirement for all mainland visitors on the same day. The city will also drop the rapid antigen test for travelers from Macao, as well as the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for overseas and Taiwan-inbound passengers.

Chief Secretary for Administration Eric Chan Kwok-ki said that starting from Feb 8, cross-border students at Hong Kong's secondary schools can use special channels at checkpoints and school bus services to return to Hong Kong for face-to-face classes. The arrangement will cover other cross-border students in primary schools, kindergarten and special schools from Feb 22.

Data from Ctrip, an online travel platform, showed that searches for Hong Kong and Macao as destinations increased more than threefold immediately after the full resumption arrangement was announced, and page views for tour products to the two cities increased 1.8 times. The platform soon launched nearly 100 group travel products for Hong Kong and Macao.

Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of the Macao Government Tourism Office, estimated that many mainland tour groups will arrive in the city as soon as the first day of the full travel resumption. She revealed that the office plans to give away 120,000 air tickets this year to attract visitors from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and overseas regions.

Lei Wai-nong, secretary for economy and finance in Macao, said the city aims to attract about 40 million visitors this year, which is similar to the number in 2019.

Allen Shi Lop-tak, president of Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong, said travel normalization with the mainland is a crucial step to bring mainland tourists back to Hong Kong and provide strong support to the city's domestic demand and accelerate economic recovery.

Leung Chun-ying, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the border's fullscale reopening will bring more Hong Kong people to the mainland and further help the city's integration into the country's overall development.

He will lead an 80-member delegation to visit Guangzhou's Nansha district on Monday to explore business opportunities.

Oswald Chan and Li Lei contributed to the story.


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