Hong Kong and Macau are working on a travel bubble deal, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has revealed, but she said the scheme must be free of loopholes.
"The biggest problem is that Macau has almost completely reopened its borders with the mainland," Lam told legislators yesterday.
"We have to figure out a special arrangement to allow Hongkongers to go to Macau without quarantine but also ban them from entering the mainland through Macau. We're working on that."
She was responding to a question by the labor sector's Luk Chung-hung.
Lam talked to Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat-sing at the Boao Forum for Asia on Hainan last week, and authorities followed up on talks about restarting travel between the SARs upon return.
She also broached the idea of reopening the border with the mainland with Vice Premier Han Zheng in Guangzhou last week and was told a travel resumption was vital for Hong Kong's revival.
"I haven't received clear indicators on vaccination rates or the number of confirmed cases daily for this to be realized," Lam added. "Of course, we all want to have zero infections, but it's not an easy target."
To provide an impetus for travel restarting, she said, "we have to boost our vaccination rate."
As of Tuesday, 454,600 people had been administered both doses - 294,900 for Sinovac and 159,700 for BioNTech/Fosun.
And 872,500 have had one shot - 414,100 Sinovac and 458,400 BioNTech.
Engineering sector lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok said many engineers and business people have not been able to visit their factories in the mainland, which was crucial for management, meetings and quality control of products.
He proposed a "business bubble" to allow the vaccinated to return to the mainland without quarantine as long as they tested negative before crossing.
Lam said the SAR is in discussions with provinces and cities, which are open to the idea.
"We already have a direction, but the pace is not as fast as anticipated," she said, and "we will continue to study possibilities."
The Return2hk scheme allowing Hongkongers in Guangdong to come back without quarantine will be expanded to all of the mainland today, and Shenzhen Bay Port will extend operations by two hours so it runs from 10am to 10pm.
This turn of events followed Monday's announcement on the launch of the long-awaited travel bubble with Singapore on May 26 on condition Hongkongers participating in the program are vaccinated against Covid-19.
And all air tickets before June 5 have been sold out.
Only one pair of flights for 400 passengers will be available daily for the first two weeks. Then on June 10 there will be two pairs of flights daily.