Hong Kong hopes to fully resume cross-border travel with the Chinese mainland including scrapping nucleic acid testing, John Lee, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government, said on Tuesday that the details will be soon unveiled to help the city completely return to normalcy.
Hong Kong further adjusted its COVID-19 response by ending compulsory quarantine for infected people starting from Monday, with those who test positive no longer required to report. Some local officials and lawmakers have been calling for ending the requirement for nucleic acid testing for cross-border travel and canceling daily quota of cross-border travelers given that both the city and the mainland have been further optimizing COVID response and normalizing epidemic management.
Lee believed that the decision to cancel the nucleic acid testing requirement will be made within a very short period of time. The next step of the HKSAR government is focusing on further normalizing epidemic measures including scrapping nucleic acid testing between Hong Kong and mainland, increasing ports to handle the cross-border travelers and canceling the daily quota, he told a press conference on Tuesday.
In terms of the international travelers, the HKSAR government will consider canceling the requirements for vaccines and rapid antigen tests for international arrivals. Also, a government group of 30 people led by Lee will visit Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to promote advantages of Hong Kong culture and business on Saturday, February 4, according to the press conference.
In further optimizing COVID response, some public health experts believed that the city will likely to abolish the universal mask mandate in spring or summer. When asked about a decision on whether to scrap the mask mandate, Lee said the HKSAR government has to make the decision based on risk and data. After ending mandatory quarantine, the mask mandate is the only restriction now, he said.
After the flu peak season in the winter passes, if the epidemic is under control, the HKSAR government will consider canceling the mask mandate, Lee said.
In order to fully resume cross-border travel between Hong Kong and the mainland, Lee said the HKSAR government is now closely coordinating and discussing with relevant parties, all of whom agree on resuming border crossings as soon as possible in principle. More work should be done in talking about details. Also, after the full resumption of cross-border travel, people should continue wearing masks.
After mainland borders reopened from January 8, the daily quota for Hong Kong travelers heading to mainland was set at 60,000.
The three-year epidemic has entered a new stage and the HKSAR government aims to help the city fully restore normalcy, according to the CE. He told the press conference that he does not agree with setting up an independent investigation committee to probe in the HKSAR government’s epidemic measures but agreed on summing up experiences to deal with new risks.
By drawing up experiences in the past seven months and coming up with practical solutions, we believe that we will overcome future challenges, Lee said.