China and Hong Kong have confirmed plans to reopen their shared border on Sunday after practically three years of coronavirus restrictions which have stifled cross-border tourism and enterprise exercise.
However crossings to and from mainland China will likely be restricted to an estimated 60,000 a day every manner, Hong Kong’s chief govt John Lee stated on Thursday. The visits would be the first to be exempt from quarantine on arrival since early 2020, however quantity to a fraction of pre-pandemic figures.
The easing of cross-border restrictions was timed to coincide with Beijing dropping entry restrictions for abroad travellers, together with scrapping PCR assessments on arrival, which Chinese language authorities introduced late final month in an abrupt exit from the nation’s zero-Covid containment coverage.
“With the approval of the central authorities, [Hong Kong’s] path returning to normalcy is now practically 100 per cent full,” Lee instructed a press convention.
Hong Kong’s financial pillars, from the retail sector to the property market, have been battered by the pandemic. The monetary hub’s gross home product is anticipated to contract 3.2 per cent in 2022.
The pandemic took a heavy toll on tourism, which contributed roughly 4.5 per cent to Hong Kong’s economic system in 2018, with a majority of 65mn coming from mainland China. Mainland guests dropped to about 249,000 within the first 10 months of final yr.
The territory solely waived quarantine necessities for abroad guests, which at one level stretched for so long as three weeks, in September. Arrival testing necessities and different social restrictions had been dropped final week.
Retail gross sales in Hong Kong additionally fell practically 20 per cent between January and November final yr in contrast with the identical interval in 2019.
The sector shouldn’t be anticipating an instantaneous gross sales surge in the course of the lunar new yr this month, usually a peak season, as China’s huge Covid-19 outbreak damps journey sentiment.
“We aren’t anticipating many mainland vacationers to be on a spending spree throughout journeys to Hong Kong proper after the borders reopen,” stated Hong Kong Retail Administration Affiliation chair Annie Yau, citing continued weak home retail demand on the mainland.
Beijing on Thursday introduced that Hong Kong residents would not must carry out a Covid take a look at on arrival from Sunday, however would wish a unfavourable PCR take a look at outcome inside 48 hours of departure. The identical requirement applies to abroad guests.
These travelling to Hong Kong from mainland China can even want a unfavourable pre-departure PCR take a look at, although arrivals from abroad solely must carry out a speedy antigen take a look at.
The Hong Kong authorities later launched particulars together with a every day cap of fifty,000 every manner for land border crossings with Shenzhen resulting from capability constraints. The remaining 10,000 every day guests are anticipated to journey through flight and ferry. A high-speed rail line reference to mainland China will resume service no later than January 15, authorities officers stated.
The most recent preparations got here as Beijing objected this week to a rising checklist of nations imposing testing necessities on arrivals from China in hopes of stopping a surge in infections from spreading.
“Covid response measures . . . shouldn’t be used for political manipulation,” Chinese language international ministry spokesperson Mao Ning instructed a press convention on Wednesday. “There shouldn’t be discriminatory measures in opposition to sure nations.”
The EU on Wednesday advisable member states require pre-departure Covid assessments for travellers from China, following nations together with the US, UK, France, Italy, Spain, Japan and South Korea, which have launched controls together with obligatory testing and proof of vaccination.