HONG KONG – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Friday she expected the border with mainland China to largely reopen in February next year as the two governments stick to their zero COVID-19 policies, public broadcaster RTHK reported.
Despite barely recording any local coronavirus cases in recent months, authorities in the global financial hub have tightened up quarantine and patient discharge rules to convince Beijing to allow cross-border travel.
Hong Kong is following Beijing’s lead in retaining strict travel curbs, in contrast to a global trend of opening up and living with the coronavirus.
RTHK said Lam’s remarks were made during a forum about China’s Greater Bay Area.
International business lobby groups have warned Hong Kong could lose talent and investment, as well as competitive ground to rival finance hubs such as Singapore, unless it relaxes its restrictions on travel.
Lam has repeatedly said opening the border with mainland China, Hong Kong’s main source of growth, was her priority.
Hong Kong’s government said in a statement late on Thursday that a video call between health experts and officials from Hong Kong and the mainland was “constructive, heading towards the goal of resumption of quarantine-free travel” in a “gradual” manner.
Hong Kong requires hotel quarantine of up to 21 days for arrivals from most countries at the travellers’ cost.
Those who test positive are immediately admitted to hospital regardless of their condition. Since last month they have been required to spend a further 14 days in a designated facility after leaving the hospital.
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu; writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)