After a prolonged pandemic break, China announced on Friday that it will completely restore travel across its borders next week, eliminating daily quotas and Covid testing requirements.
Both of the semi-autonomous cities have adhered to Beijing’s zero-COVID strategy for nearly three years, causing families to be divided, tourism to be cut off, and businesses to become suffocated.
On Friday, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council announced that group tours would be permitted to resume after all restrictions had been lifted at midnight on February 6.
After Beijing abruptly ended its isolationist policy, limited travel across the border between Hong Kong and mainland China resumed in January.
At first, only 60,000 people could cross in either direction each day, and they had to show a negative PCR test.
The partial reopening, according to Hong Kong leader John Lee, was “orderly, safe, and smooth” on Friday.
Some estimates put the financial center’s $27 billion cost attributable to Hong Kong’s prolonged separation from its largest source of growth.
Mainlanders have long dominated Hong Kong tourism, with 51 million visitors in 2018, nearly seven times the city’s population.
Officials in the city are hoping that an influx of tourists will boost the once-thriving tourism and retail sectors, which were hit hard by the recession, and give the economy a boost.
Starting on Monday, foreign visitors who have not been immunized will be permitted to visit Hong Kong; however, Lee stated that pre-arrival rapid antigen tests will still be required.
He stated, “As the complete reopening of the border with mainland China will bring a large surge in travel, we will keep the testing requirement for overseas travelers for a period of observation to ensure that risks are manageable.”
The full relaunch of travel with the mainland comes a day after Lee launched a rebranding campaign to attract tourists from overseas. In it, he promised “no isolation, no quarantine, and no restrictions” and more than half a million free flights.
Even though outdoor masking is still required in Hong Kong, Lee has stated that the policy may be repealed following the outbreak of the winter flu.