Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong are discussing easing mandatory quarantine restrictions in what can be viewed as a positive sign for travel in the region. The plans were revealed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Monday in an interview with Tu Kung Pao newspaper, as cited by The Standard.
Although mandatory quarantine for all inbound travelers from the mainland to Hong Kong was extended to June 7, Lam is hopeful that a new plan will allow people from Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao who meet certain requirements and pass a COVID-19 test to be exempt from quarantine. The agreement could be reached within weeks.
An amended section of Hong Kong’s compulsory quarantine regulations states that people who need to travel for purposes related to manufacturing operations or other business activities in the interest of the SAR’s economic development may be exempt. Tourists from the mainland to Hong Kong are unlikely to be included in initial exemptions.
According to state-run news outlet Xinhua, Lam said that since the mandatory quarantine regulations first went into effect on February 8, over 100,000 mainland visitors to Hong Kong have been quarantined, and none have been confirmed cases of COVID-19, as of Monday.
Some legislators in Hong Kong have expressed concern over easing cross-border travel with the mainland, while pushing for efforts to bring back folks stranded in other countries. Lam has accused those lawmakers of politicizing the pandemic.
“Some legislators still believe it is like ‘inviting a wolf into the house’ if we exempt quarantine for Hongkongers doing businesses with the mainland and cross-border students. But they also ask me to bring back people stranded in India, Pakistan, Peru and Morocco,” Lam said, adding, “I am really disgusted with this argument because where is the wolf?”
In Macao, politicians have been encouraging the government to loosen restrictions on travel with Hong Kong and Guangdong province since late April. Macao’s gaming industry has taken a significant hit in the wake of the pandemic as casinos were closed down for 15 days in February and have yet to rebound given the travel restrictions on the special administrative region.
Macao has not seen an imported case in over a month while Hong Kong has not reported any new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in over three weeks, according to Macau News.
China has confirmed reports that the country has engaged in talks with South Korea and Singapore on opening up the border for essential travel for business and tech-related activities. However, those plans may have been put on hold as new virus clusters have been reported in Wuhan and Seoul.
[Cover image via Pixabay]