Only a few people arrive at Hong Kong International Airport on Friday, one day before the local government imposes a mandatory quarantine on anyone arriving from Italy, regions of France, Spain, Germany and Japan. (Photo: Global Times)
South China's Shenzhen has enhanced border management amid increasing imported COVID-19 cases, as experts call for strengthened cooperation between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, two important gateway to China, in the face of the pandemic.
Shenzhen ports and airports have enhanced epidemic checks. Arrivals with fevers and coughs will be sent to hospitals immediately, while those with Hong Kong identity cards who have not gone abroad in the past 14 days can be cleared directly, Shenzhen television reported, citing a staff member of Shenzhen Bay Checkpoint, a port between the city and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Those with other countries' passports have to go through more detailed checks and shunt procedures, according to the report.
The city had reported eight imported cases as of Tuesday while local confirmed cases stayed at 417.
According to published patients' routes, the Global Times found that six of the eight imported cases in Shenzhen had entered the city via Hong Kong.
The Global Times learned from the Shenzhen health authority that it has sent personnel to the site to take care of arrivals with symptoms.
Strengthened measures would ease public concerns over imported cases entering the Chinese mainland via Hong Kong. Some viral posts on social media showed Shenzhen Bay Checkpoint filled with inbound crowds with captions claiming that arrivals from Hong Kong to Shenzhen are not required to take a 14-day quarantine, causing many international arrivals to try and transfer from Hong Kong to the mainland.
"Shenzhen is like the Chinese mainland's south gate to prevent imported cases from reaching Guangdong Province and the whole country," Tian Feilong, an associate professor at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
About 36 percent of cross-border trips to the Chinese mainland, which is 242 million, were made via Shenzhen in 2019, according to media reports.
Experts suggest strengthened cooperation between Shenzhen and Hong Kong to ward off imported infection risks. As an international hub, Hong Kong's access to the mainland brings about a high risk of imported infections, and the city's quarantine policy is important for the prevention and control work not only in Hong Kong but also in the mainland, they noted.
"The Hong Kong government itself may not be able to handle the prevention work associated with the upcoming large inflow of international visitors and returnees. It needs to cooperate with Shenzhen to jointly manage the situation," Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan studies at Nankai University in Tianjin, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
The Hong Kong government closed four more ports between Hong Kong and Shenzhen on February 4, leaving three out of 13 still open. Shenzhen Bay Checkpoint has become a major port for people to travel between the two cities.
On Tuesday, the Hong Kong government issued red travel alert for all countries and regions around the world due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
The government also announced plans to impose mandatory quarantine periods for all arrivals from overseas starting Thursday.