Students and business travelers from Guangdong and Macau were among the first batch of 2,000 arrivals yesterday under the Come2hk scheme allowing them quarantine-free entry.
The scheme came 19 months after the Hong Kong-mainland border closure that shut off non-Hong Kong residents. It was launched yesterday, and reopened gates to 2,000 arrivals a day, requiring travelers to go through repeated Covid
-19 tests in exchange for a quarantine-free arrangement.
The online registration system became congested right after it started service past midnight.
Authorities got the system back up immediately and operations have since been smooth. By 1am, about 1,000 people had registered under the scheme.
At Shenzhen Bay Port yesterday, mainlanders were seen walking out of the arrival tower shortly after 10am.
One of them was a freshman at the Chinese University of Hong Kong from Gansu province, who said she had arrived in Shenzhen 14 days ago.
The student, Li, said she managed to register for a spot to come on the first day after hearing about the implementation of Come2hk yesterday.
"The scheme is convenient," Li said. "I passed the border quickly today. The process was fast as long as travelers could prepare their personal documents in advance," she said.
A primary five cross-border student, Li Zehan, who was accompanied by his grandfather, said he could finally attend face-to-face classes after a two-year halt.
"I was so excited because I have not seen my new classmates and teachers and I want to know them as soon as possible. I couldn't sleep all night yesterday," the pupil said.
The grandfather said they would rent a flat to live in Hong Kong, adding that two years of online learning had affected his grandson's studies.
A financial-sector employee, Liu, said he would start working in the afternoon itself right after entering the SAR through the scheme and would not return to the mainland for a while.
Liu also said the online registration system for the scheme was congested in the early hours.
"At the beginning, the network was congested as many people might be visiting the website. I finally registered for the scheme at around 2am," he said.
It took about 50 minutes for people to access the page.
Tourism lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said more than 2,000 people have registered for the scheme. He had believed the daily quota would not be used up at such an early stage.
"I believe most people come to Hong Kong via the scheme to visit their relatives and handle business matters," Yiu said, adding the scheme would not help the local tourism sector as no tourist would come through the scheme.