The backstory: The border between Hong Kong and mainland China was shut for the most part three years ago and hasn’t been able to completely re-open. This closure was to stop the spread of COVID. And anyone that was able to pass through was required to quarantine. It has been a big challenge for people with families and business ties on both sides.
More recently: Over the past few months, Chinese and Hong Kong officials have been working together to make things easier on both sides of the border. Right now, there’s a 3,500-person limit on Hong Kong visitors to China, and all of these inbound travelers have to quarantine for five days in a hotel. But, over the past few weeks, COVID restrictions have relaxed on both sides of the border, and China has pivoted away from its zero-COVID stance.
The development: China just announced its border with Hong Kong would open this coming Sunday (January 8), which is also when travel restrictions for those leaving China are lifted. This change will take some time, with a starting limit of 60,000 inter-border travelers per day (excluding residents returning home). All Hong Kong travelers to China will have to test negative for COVID via a PCR test within 48 hours of crossing the border. But, there won’t be any need to quarantine for Hong Kong arrivals right after crossing like before. China will also start issuing visas for mainland residents to travel to Hong Kong again, and Macau has also announced an easing of travel restrictions.
“We have taken a huge step toward resumption of normalcy. I will say that we’re almost there,” said Hong Kong’s chief executive John Lee.
China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office released a notice on Thursday saying that Hong Kong and China are working on a “gradual and orderly” way of opening the border.
“Responses to the imminent border re-opening were overwhelming,” said a Chinese government chief information officer, referring to the online cross-border booking system, which crashed an hour into its launch due to overwhelming demand. “The system temporarily met with heavy traffic and resulted in queues online at the beginning, which subsequently returned to normal.”