26th July 2022 – (Hong Kong) Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, Hong Kong has imposed stringent quarantine conditions for arrivals at its border with the Mainland and overseas.
Hong Kong will hold a large-scale financial summit and the World Rugby Sevens in November, which will be an opportunity to re-show Hong Kong as an international city to the world. Some reports describe this milestone as the ultimate deadline in opening up to the world. At that time, entry restrictions must be relaxed. Some politicians admitted frankly that both government officials and representatives of many local organisations all emphasised on the priority of border reopening with overseas countries since the Mainland and other countries are adopting two completely different anti-epidemic strategies. The approach shows that the Hong Kong government has “half-abandoned” border reopening with the Mainland, but it will not be stated due to political correctness.
Due to the completely different approach of the Mainland’s “dynamic Covid clearance” policy and the “coexistence with virus” policy adopted by Western countries, Hong Kong has been caught between the East and the West since the outbreak of the Omicron epidemic at the beginning of this year. Since Hong Kong has been unable to achieve dynamic clearance of COVID-19 cases, it has to shift its focus to reopening borders with foreign countries to reduce its impact on Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre.
Although the government has yet to announce the official details, all the above measures are actually moving towards relaxation of border quarantine measures with other countries. Even though Chief Executive John Lee has always stated that there is no conflict between reopening borders with Mainland and international countries, everyone is aware that there is always a certain risk of virus transmission in relaxing quarantine restrictions, and the Hong Kong SAR needs to make a certain trade-off between the two. Earlier, during the Ante Chamber exchange session of the Legislative Council, a number of lawmakers felt that the government had placed priority on border reopening with overseas countries, and that the aim was always “more palpable and achievable”.
Michael Tien, member of the Legislative Council for New Territories North West pointed out that quarantine period for arrivals has always been required to gradually change from the current “7+0” to “3+4” and then to “0+7”, and that home quarantine will be fully adopted for business travellers and vaccine passport will be suspended during the period to achieve the effect of full control.
Tam Yiu-chung, member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress later pointed out that the current focus of border reopening with the Mainland is no longer the issue of “comprehensive border reopening”, but to increase the number of quotas and gradually push forward the border reopening. He believes that the epidemic should be well controlled both internally and externally, but it is also one of President Xi Jinping’s expectations for Hong Kong in his “1st July speech”.