Roll out our post-Covid travel roadmap

Editorial | Mary Ma 18 Jun 2021

The Hong Kong government should react positively to the European Union's announcement to include the SAR on its "white list" of international travelers.

Although this means unvaccinated Hongkongers may resume non-essential travel to the EU for leisure without having to undergo quarantine as long as they have a negative Covid test result, it is believed that the SAR administration will require Hongkongers to get inoculated before flying out to Europe.

In addition to Hong Kong, the EU list was expanded to add Macau and Taiwan, along with the US, Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia and Lebanon.

Initially, the relaxation for Hong Kong was subject to reciprocal arrangement - meaning the SAR would have to treat EU nationals equally on their arrival here.

That condition has been dropped, clearing the way for Hongkongers to be included on the list.

That's definitely a positive development for the city.

Hongkongers like traveling more than most. The addition to the EU's white list has offered an incentive more attractive than the lotteries that have been donated by local businesses. The possibility of going sightseeing in Europe is a much more practical reward.

In a parallel development, the EU said member states may decide their own national policies in relation to pandemic restrictions.

For example, they may welcome visitors who are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines recognized by the European Medicines Agency.

As far as Hong Kong is concerned, BioNTech is one of the four that Europe has approved. Sinovac and three others are still under rolling review.

As vaccine rollouts continue, governments in the developed world have started preparing for a new order of international travel after the pandemic.

While Hong Kong will have to get ready for that too, the only setback to the EU offer is that SAR residents will have to go through lengthy quarantine on their return to Hong Kong from Europe.

The administration should draw up a roadmap to get ready for what international travel may be like after the pandemic.

It will certainly help if the quarantine process can be simplified for people returning from places where the epidemic situation has stabilized.

Meanwhile, it was stunning to hear the Tourism Commission saying it had been exploring the establishment of travel bubbles with other countries and places. It was stunning because the travel bubble is now an obsolete idea given all that has happened worldwide.

The commission should have been aware of the rocky start of the SAR's attempt to launch a travel bubble with Singapore. It is too unstable a model to rely on.

The traffic-light systems adopted by the EU and UK are also experiments, and neither European Commission president Ursula von der Leyon nor UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson can claim with total confidence that they will succeed.

But both are smarter than forming travel bubbles with individual countries.

It's time the administration starts preparing for the post-Covid era. The last thing to do is to keep the door shut.

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