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The backstory: Most of the checkpoints between mainland China and Hong Kong have been closed for almost three years to tamp down the COVID spread between the two regions. For the last few months, Hong Kong has been easing its COVID curbs to re-open the financial hub, from removing mandatory quarantine for international arrivals in September to the recent removal of venue exclusions for overseas arrivals.
More recently: China is battling a huge COVID outbreak as it also looks to ease COVID rules, with an estimated 248 million people infected with COVID in December, according to an internal meeting of China’s National Health Commission. Currently, if you’re in Hong Kong and you want to head across the border to China, you enter through Hong Kong’s airport or two checkpoints that are still open. And Beijing caps inbound travelers from Hong Kong with a limited daily quota. But if you manage to get through, you must also go through five days of hotel quarantine.
The development: On Saturday, after Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee returned from Beijing, he announced that the city plans to “gradually, orderly and fully” re-open its borders with China before mid-January. He said that Hong Kong would coordinate with the Shenzhen and Guangdong governments to work on the plans. Then, on Monday, China's National Health Commission downgraded COVID management to a less-strict approach and said it would drop quarantine requirements for inbound travelers beginning January 8.
“I can now announce that the much-awaited reopening of the border with the mainland can now be achieved,” said Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee at a news conference, confirming that Beijing supports the plan to reopen the border. “We aim to discuss with authorities in Guangdong and Shenzhen plans to reopen the border and then seek the central government’s [final] approval.”
“China’s reopening is likely to have the most positive effect on international travel followed by stronger goods imports,” said economists from Goldman Sachs. They added that Hong Kong could see an estimated 7.6% boost to its gross domestic product as exports and tourism income climbs, while Thailand’s GDP may lift by 2.9%.
“This has indicated to investors that everything will be back to normal, so they can be at ease to invest in both Hong Kong and the mainland,” said Dennis Ng Kwok-on, vice president of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong. “For the manufacturers, they can have time to make plans and restore normal production after Lunar New Year.”