An agreement to relax cross-border quarantine measures between Hong Kong, Guangdong province and Macau could be reached within weeks, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says, but family visits and tourists are unlikely to be included initially, according to South China Morning Post today.
The plan to further ease coronavirus-related restrictions was revealed on Monday as Hong Kong recorded no new Covid-19 cases, marking the 22nd day in a row of no locally transmitted infections.
It was also the 14th time that no new cases were recorded over the same period.
The city’s tally of confirmed infections remained at 1,047.
According to the Post in an interview published in the newspaper Ta Kung Pao on Monday, Chief Executive Lam said the Hong Kong government was in talks with authorities in neighbouring Guangdong and Macau about drafting a plan to allow residents of the three places to be exempted from 14-day quarantine when travelling across the borders. She hoped a consensus could be reached this month.
She said the initial criteria for exemptions would be that people had specific reasons to travel and had taken a virus test to prove they were not infected.
A Hong Kong government source said the administration was exploring the possibility of gradually relaxing cross-border quarantine restrictions when the mandatory requirement for people arriving from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan expired on June 7.
“However, we may extend the restrictions if we fail to work out with mainland authorities and Macau how to synchronise quarantine measures,” the source said.
The source added that a step-by-step approach would be used to relax measures as both the Hong Kong government and mainland authorities preferred not to have a significant surge in the cross-border flow of people soon after restrictions were eased.
“Quarantine restrictions will not be eased for visits to families and relatives, as well as tourists in the initial phases of relaxation of quarantine measures for incoming travellers,” the source said to the Post.
Since February 8, Hong Kong has required people arriving from the mainland to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.
The requirement was extended to those arriving from Macau and Taiwan on March 25.
Guangdong began a similar restriction on those arriving from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan on March 27.
Hong Kong has already granted quarantine exemptions to some groups, such as cross-border students and people who travel for business or provide professional services, but the mainland authorities have not yet made any exemptions.
Another government source said authorities on both sides of the border were discussing how to recognise each other’s quarantine arrangements and virus test results.
The COVID-19 situation in Guangdong has eased, with only one locally diagnosed infection and one imported case reported since April 27, according to figures from the province’s health commission.
The province so far has recorded more than 1,500 confirmed cases.
Macau, which has not seen an imported case for 33 straight days, also began quarantine exemptions on Monday for citizens from neighbouring Zhuhai who work in the city.