Easy-travel scheme formainland, HK, Macau

Top News | Mandy Zheng 12 May 2020

Authorities in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong expect to finalize a plan within the month allowing residents in the three regions to commute without undergoing quarantine, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has revealed.

In an interview with state-owned Ta Kung Pao newspaper, Lam said cross-border travelers might need to meet two requirements to be exempted from the 14-day mandatory quarantine regulation.

"The first is to have certain purposes and the second is to prove themselves clean in the coronavirus test, just like cross-border cargo truck drivers now," Lam said.

The three governments hope to relax quarantine restrictions simultaneously this month, she added.

Hong Kong recorded one more imported case of Covid-19 yesterday, bringing the total number to 1,047. The new patient is a 70-year-old woman who arrived from Britain on Sunday night. The city has seen no new local infections for the 22nd consecutive day.

Officials announced late last month that cross-border pupils and locals doing businesses with the mainland will be eligible for quarantine exemption.

Lam said the problem of cross-border students will have to wait until the operation of all the border checkpoints returns to normal.

"As these pupils live in different places in Shenzhen, it would still be difficult for them to go to school if we only open the Shenzhen Bay Port. We need a thorough plan," she said.

Lam also criticized the double standards applied by some lawmakers when it comes to allowing mainlanders to enter Hong Kong, accusing them of "hijacking the anti-epidemic fight with politics."

She added: "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.

"I am really disgusted with this argument because where is the wolf?"

But David Hui Shu-cheong, a government adviser and respiratory illness expert at Chinese University, said exemptions for quarantine should only apply to mainland provinces where the coronavirus outbreak is under control.

Hong Kong University microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said the three regions should reconsider their quarantine policies, deeming it unnecessary and a waste of time to quarantine people commuting between Hong Kong and mainland.

It may not be feasible to test 20,000 cross-border students repeatedly, he said, and it would be safe to exempt the group from quarantine if the situation remains stable.

But Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the advisory committee on communicable diseases at the Hong Kong Medical Association, warned that even if the tests on visitors show negative, it is hard to determine if they are completely free of the virus.

"The key is whether the number of cross-border travelers will rise sharply after the quarantine exemption restrictions are relaxed," Leung said. "If so, the risk of infection for Hongkongers will increase.

Under current arrangements, those arriving from the mainland, Macau and Taiwan are required to undergo 14-day quarantine.

mandy.zheng@singtaonewscorp.om

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