Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam says the time has come to resume some cross-border travel with mainland China and Macau, revealing initial talks have already resumed to allow Hong Kong residents living in mainland China to return home.
The prospect of adding Hong Kong to the current two-way travel bubble between the mainland and Macau comes as the larger of the SAR’s continues to see a decline in new cases of COVID-19, including two days with zero local transmissions in the past week. The three jurisdictions had previously been in talks over a multi-way travel bubble before a third wave of the virus in July saw Hong Kong reintroduce tighter restrictions.
Speaking to media on Tuesday, Lam said discussions over opening Hong Kong’s border in a “gradual and orderly manner” were now back on the table.
“It is time for us to take a very pragmatic approach to allow people flow, whether between Hong Kong and the mainland, or Hong Kong and Macau, and Hong Kong with other overseas places,” Lam said.
Most public transport services between Hong Kong, mainland China and Macau were suspended in February, with the remainder cancelled by early April. Under current restrictions, anyone arriving into Hong Kong from mainland China or Macau – or entering mainland China or Macau from Hong Kong – must undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Just 2,300 people entered Hong Kong from mainland China in August, down from 2.8 million in August 2019.
Resumption of travel between the three jurisdictions would also provide a boost to Macau’s gaming operators, with Hong Kong estimated to account for between 10% and 15% of Macau GGR each year.