Hong Kong to lift Covid-19 restrictions; eyes border reopening with Mainland

By Luke Barras-hill |

Hong Kong’s plan to reopen its border with Mainland China on or before 15 January spells good news for the likes of Dufry. Pictured is a unit at MTR’s West Kowloon high-speed railway station.

Travellers to Hong Kong will no longer be subject to post-arrival Covid-19 testing and a sweep of other measures from tomorrow (Thursday 29 December), Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu has announced.

The special administrative region has reacted swiftly in dropping nearly all of its pandemic control measures, including the vaccine pass scheme, following Mainland China’s decision earlier this week to ease travel restrictions and unlock its borders from early next month.

Arrivals to HK, including those from Mainland China, Macau, Taiwan and overseas regions, will only be required to present a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) within 24 hours or a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 48 hours.

Inbound travellers to Hong Kong are being advised to take a rapid antigen test each day until the fifth day after arrival.

Border unlock with Mainland ‘imminent’

While existing protocols such as capacity constraints will end, a mask mandate stays in place.

In what will be viewed as another substantial boost for travel retail businesses, Lee also confirmed during a press conference unveiling the latest measures today (28 December) that Hong Kong aims to reopen its borders with Mainland China on or before 15 January, subject to approval.

Hong Kong, which like the Mainland implemented some of the toughest Covid-19 constraints in the world, has progressively eased pandemic-related curbs in recent months.

Limits on travel between the Mainland and Hong Kong were first introduced in the early part of 2020.

During a press conference on 28 December, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said Hong Kong’s goal is a ‘gradual, orderly and comprehensive’ customs clearance process by air, sea, rail and land with the Mainland before 15 January. Source: info.gov.hk.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) lauded the decision to remove Hong Kong’s restrictions as a ‘New Year’s gift’ for the travel trade and tourism-related sectors.

“The new measures mark a key milestone for tourism revival and the full reopening of the tourism doors of Hong Kong,” stated Dr Pang Yiu-kai, Chairman of the HKTB.

“Visitors can now fully enjoy Hong Kong’s diverse offerings once they arrive in town. We believe this will attract visitors to Hong Kong from around the world.”

HKTB adds that it will step up promotions in overseas and Mainland markets to promote Hong Kong as a travel destination by taking into account the pace of the outbound travel resumption by source market.

A spokesperson from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) added: “Given the importance of economic and social connectivity between the Mainland and Hong Kong, the resumption of quarantine-free travel between Mainland China and Hong Kong will certainly be welcomed by many international and Mainland business people who have been waiting for this good news. The unimpeded flow of international and Mainland travellers will also benefit the convention and exhibition sector.

“With the lifting of international travel restrictions in Hong Kong in recent months, we have also seen a gradual return of overseas participants to our events. We believe more international and Mainland companies will come to Hong Kong to do business when quarantine-free travel resumes between the Mainland-Hong Kong borders.”

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