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Throughout the pandemic, Hong Kong has kept some of the strictest COVID rules in the world as it keeps to its dynamic zero COVID strategy. This stance has led to a mass exodus of expats as well as backlash from the business community, with many saying that the city would lose its international edge if it didn’t loosen its regulations. Since the end of the fifth wave, a travel ban on non-residents that are fully vaxxed was lifted last month, but all travelers still need to hotel quarantine for seven days.
Now in an interview with SCMP, incoming leader John Lee has said that he will try to make it easier to travel to Hong Kong without creating extra risk for mainland China, the border opening that remains the city’s priority. No specifics on how both would be achieved were mentioned, but a source familiar with the situation said there could be some closed-loop system whereby the traveler has a purpose for entering the region.
“We should talk about the attraction of Hong Kong, the appeal of Hong Kong to the international world. We are a very competitive, open society with opportunities. It is also to dispel all the badmouthing and fearmongering about the so-called erosion of freedoms and rights, which are protected by the Basic Law … and also that we have judicial independence,” Lee said.
“Whatever I do in Hong Kong, it will be seen as a very reasonable and practical plan to address the situation in Hong Kong, without bringing extra risk to the mainland at the same time,” Lee said. “If we may not achieve that goal very quickly, are there interim goals that we can achieve? I am formulating different options, so that I hope there will be less inconvenience for travelling across the mainland boundary.”
“One thing I will do very quickly together with my secretary for health is a quick review, looking at statistics and figures to ascertain how we can achieve the best result with the least cost. The second thing is, what are possible interim measures and interim goals before we can reach the final goal? The quarantine period is causing inconvenience to travellers. Is there a way of addressing that inconvenience so that [we can] reduce it a little bit? These are options.”