China may drop quarantine for Hong Kong residents traveling into the mainland next month, according to local media reports, as the country speeds up its shift away from strict Covid control.
There is “a good chance” of a “large-scale” pilot program for quarantine-free travel before the Lunar New Year holidays, which start on Jan. 22, the local media reported on Saturday, citing two mainland sources.
Beijing-backed Ta Kung Pao also reported on Monday that quarantine-free travel from the city could resume around that time, citing a person it didn’t identify.
The border with mainland China has been effectively closed since February 2020. Visitors from Hong Kong are limited by a daily quota, while they also have to undergo five days of hotel quarantine.
That has cut the city off from its vast hinterland as well as drastically reduced the number of visitors. In 2019, there were more than 236 million passenger trips via land crossings across the border.
A full reopening would come at a “later stage” and would depend on the Covid
situation in Guangdong and other neighboring provinces, the South China Morning Post reported, citing an unnamed Beijing-based official.
Mainland officials are checking immigration equipment at the border to make sure they still work, it added.
Hong Kong’s leader John Lee said on Sunday the government will conduct a full review of the city’s Covid
measures, including the city’s Leavehomesafe app used to enter venues, and he expects to get a report “soon.”
Reducing restrictions on people crossing the border is a priority, he told reporters, without giving any timetable for resuming quarantine-free travel.
China may start reopening the border for business and commercial purposes this month, Hong Kong lawmaker Ben Chan said in a Facebook
post on Monday, citing sources. “Hurray for the gradual return to normalcy,” he wrote.
In a further sign of easing, trucks from Hong Kong can now go directly to points on the mainland to transport goods, and there will be no quota, the Transport and Logistics Bureau said in a statement on Sunday. Previously drivers could only go to designated checkpoints.
The Hospital Authority also relaxed their Covid
isolation and screening rules for patients from Friday.
China is scrapping its mobile app used to track people’s travel history from Tuesday. The app was adopted in 2020 during the pandemic by an academy under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and China’s three major mobile operators.