China may further ease COVID-19 border restrictions with Hong Kong: Reports

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China may further relax its border restrictions with Hong Kong, including shortening mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from the city, the South China Morning Post reported.

The current seven-day hotel quarantine period for travelers from Hong Kong could be cut to four days by the end of the year because the incubation period for most COVID-19 variants is about three days, the paper cited veteran politician Tam Yiu-chung as saying. Tam is the city’s sole deputy to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

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Tam also believes the mainland may allow more visitors from Hong Kong to cross the border every day, Sing Tao Daily reported. The current system to enter via the land border into Shenzhen is a lottery for about 2,000 daily slots for quarantine hotels. Competition is intense, with some people taking days to secure a slot.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee has pledged to restore both the city’s international ties and its connection with the mainland, a difficult combination given Beijing’s strict COVID-Zero rules and the ubiquity of the virus elsewhere. While Lee has scrapped hotel quarantine for inbound travelers through the airport, discussions on reopening with

China, a major source of retail sales and tourists for the city, has stagnated.

Hong Kong authorities are currently in talks with mainland officials on a so-called “reverse quarantine system” where the city offers such services for local travelers directly prior to their entry into China. That could help ease the shortage of hotel supply in Shenzhen.

Tam said the discussions are stalled because of multiple technical problems, including difficulties in hiring staff willing to participate in a “closed-loop system” where they must work for a long period of time without being able to return home.

Other challenges include figuring out who is responsible if outbreaks occur on the mainland, according to the Sing Tao report.

China reported 827 new local COVID-19 cases for Saturday, while Hong Kong still sees more than 5,000 cases daily.

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