Travel bubble health code is nearly ready

Top News | Sophie Hui 10 Jun 2020

A health code facilitating travel and allowing people who test negative for Covid-19 to move between the two SARs and Guangdong is almost ready and could be launched in weeks.

But people will have to pay for the test, which costs more than HK$1,000.

This comes as tourism representatives said Hong Kong could create a "travel bubble" with Macau and Guangdong in a month or two, allowing healthy people to visit without undergoing mandatory quarantine.

It is understood that seven private hospitals and private laboratories will provide testing, including the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, Gleneagles Hong Kong Hospital and Union Hospital.

After the tests have been conducted at approved hospitals or labs, the facilities will upload the results to the website of the Department of Health.

Those found negative will receive their health code, though they will need to fill in an electronic form to get a health code for Guangdong or Macau which, it is understood, will be valid for seven days.

Those wishing to extend the code will have to take the test again.

Representatives from the tourism sector said they believe a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Macau can be organized before September.

They announced this after meeting secretary for commerce and economic development Edward Yau Tang-wah.

Travel Industry Council chairman Jason Wong Chun-tat said the travel bubble can be organized on land and water routes to places like Guangdong and Macau "in one to two months" before being extended to Thailand and other Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea.

Wong cited an earlier meeting with Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee on the health code as they pressed the government to relax the ban on gatherings of more than eight people.

"From the meeting with secretary Chan last week, I think the Macau and Guangdong border is more likely to reopen very soon," Wong said.

He said the commerce minister has told them the SAR government has been "actively seeking support" from nearby countries like Thailand to resume travel with Hong Kong.

Wong believes including those countries to the travel bubble could happen in the coming months, depending on the agreements reached between the governments.

"The feedback is positive and the trade sector is looking forward to the border reopening and the travel bubble being established very soon," he said.

Yiu Pak-leung, the convener of a travel agencies alliance, said the industry is in a "frozen state" and hopes the recovery would begin with the organizing of local tours.

But he said it is difficult to organize local tours under the current gathering ban.

"We usually have about 50 people on one tour. It will be difficult for us to organize tours if the scale is too small," he said.

Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said he hopes for a gradual relaxation of the gathering ban, as long as the government strikes a balance between public health and tourism.

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