Coronavirus: Wednesday relaunch of quarantine-free ‘Return2HK’ scheme for Hongkongers, doors open to others from mainland 1 week later | South China Morning Post
Coronavirus: Wednesday relaunch of quarantine-free ‘Return2HK’ scheme for Hongkongers, doors open to others from mainland 1 week later
Return of programme for residents will see six medium or high-risk areas excluded, with ‘Come2HK’ scheme for non-residents on September 15
Hong Kong residents will soon be able to cross the border from mainland China without quarantine under the relaunched ‘Return2HK’ scheme.
Quarantine free travel from mainland China and Macau to Hong Kong will resume on Wednesday for city residents, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has revealed, with the programme set to expand to non-residents a week later.
The “Return2HK” scheme – first launched in November for Guangdong province and Macau, then expanded to the rest of the mainland in April – exempts returning Hongkongers who have passed a Covid-19
test at least 72 hours before arrival.But when the programme relaunches on Wednesday, six areas currently considered medium or high-risk for Covid-19 will be excluded. Further details about those areas are expected to be announced later today.The plan, which sets a daily quota of 5,000 residents, was suspended last month for Macau and mainland provinces other than neighbouring Guangdong in a bid to prevent a Covid-19 outbreak across the border from spreading into the city.The decision meant most returning residents needed to spend 14 days in isolation at home and submit to five rounds of testing. “Since last November when the Return2HK scheme was launched, more or less 200,000 residents have returned, but not a single case of infection was found. So we can proceed with this plan without worries,” Lam told reporters ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting.Additionally, Lam announced that a separate scheme, dubbed “Come2HK”, would finally be launched on September 15, enabling non-residents – including mainlanders and expatriates living across the border – to come to the city without undergoing compulsory quarantine.The plan will initially be capped at 2,000 people per day.On Tuesday, Hong Kong confirmed six new imported Covid-19 cases from Britain, the Philippines, Tanzania and the United States. They all carried the L452R mutation, which has been linked to several coronavirus variants, including the Delta one.
All but one had been fully vaccinated. The remaining person had received one dose of vaccine. There were fewer than five preliminary-positive infections reported.Lam said the last locally transmitted Covid-19 case was on August 17, which was 21 days ago, an important milestone because it reflected the virus’ incubation period.
Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the two schemes were a step in the right direction, but doubted it would boost cross-border traffic significantly.“It signals that mainland Chinese authorities are willing to test the waters and allow people to enter or return to Hong Kong,” Yiu said. “But there’s still a long way to go before they allow travel to return to normal levels.“Cross-border travel has been stalled for a long time, even though both Hong Kong and the mainland have had stable coronavirus conditions, so we can expect business travellers and those with family or health matters to return to the city first.”Yiu added that the long-awaited “Come2HK” scheme was like a “tester” to see if there was sufficient demand among travellers from the rest of the mainland to come to the city. “Both schemes are not reciprocal, Hong Kong residents would still have to quarantine if they cross over, indicating that mainland China is still not ready to fully reopen its borders yet,” he said.