The border between mainland China and Hong Kong will gradually reopen from Sunday, including a daily cap on the number of travellers, paving the way for a restoration of economic and social ties that have been disrupted for three years.
Hong Kong will set a maximum limit of about 60,000 people allowed to travel into the mainland from the financial hub, Chief Executive John Lee said at a briefing Thursday.
In an earlier statement, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said China will cancel flight capacity limits from Hong Kong and Macau, and will resume flight transit to the mainland from the two cities. China will require a 48-hour negative PCR test result for arrivals from Hong Kong, it said.
The border between Hong Kong and mainland China has been effectively shut since early 2020, as both places pursued a Covid Zero policy that saw them sealed off from the world for much of the pandemic. The resumption follows Beijing’s rapid dismantling of its zero-tolerance policies, reopening the country to the world and scrapping quarantine for arrivals from Jan. 8 as it seeks to revive slumping economic growth.
Easier travel is also an important boost for Hong Kong, which has struggled under the weight of pandemic controls that cut it off from the mainland, the city’s largest source of visitors and biggest trading partner. The financial hub, which welcomed almost 44 million arrivals from mainland China in 2019, probably contracted in 2022 for the third time in four years.
Hong Kong has long been an important gateway between mainland China and the rest of the world, but travel has been stymied throughout the pandemic. There’s currently a 3,500-person limit on the number of visitors coming from Hong Kong, and the mainland’s requirement for all inbound travelers to undergo five days of hotel quarantine.
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Last year, there was an average of about 3,000 trips a day between Hong Kong and the mainland via the land border control points — the most significant route of travel — down from 640,000 in 2019.
As well as China’s abandonment of Covid Zero, Hong Kong has been making incremental changes to virus polices. The city scrapped most of its remaining pandemic curbs in recent weeks, including restrictions on new arrivals going to bars or restaurants and scrapping PCR tests for travelers after they get to the city. The financial hub has said it plans to keep its outdoor mask mandate, citing concerns about the simultaneous hit of Covid and influenza.