By Farah Master and Twinnie Siu
HONG KONG – China said on Friday that cross border travel between the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau would fully resume from Feb. 6, dropping existing quotas and scrapping a mandatory coronavirus (COVID) test that was required before traveling.
Group tours between China and its two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau would resume, while the number of customs checkpoints open will return to pre-pandemic levels, China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said in a statement on its website.
Even after China reopened its borders to the world on Jan. 8, a quota system and COVID testing requirement remained for travelers between the mainland and Hong Kong.
The three border checkpoints that have not yet reopened will do so from Feb. 6, Hong Kong’s leader John Lee said at a press conference on Friday.
Hong Kong will also scrap a COVID vaccination requirement to enter Hong Kong for all arrivals, including non-Hong Kong residents, Lee added.
Searches on Chinese travel website Qunar for roundtrip air tickets to and from Hong Kong and the mainland increased seven-fold on Friday after China’s announcement, data from state media China Transportation News showed.
China’s announcement came a day after Hong Kong launched a promotion campaign including 500,000 free flights to lure back visitors, businesses and investors to the financial hub after more than three years of tough COVID curbs.
Hong Kong was largely sealed off behind closed borders for much of the past three years in a bid to ward off COVID, with mandatory quarantine of up to three weeks for people arriving as well as intensive testing and screening.
The former British colony closely followed China’s zero-COVID policy until the middle of 2022 when it began to gradually unwind its rules.
Hong Kong dropped most of its remaining COVID rules in December, but mask-wearing remains mandatory unless exercising, and students must take daily rapid antigen tests. – Reuters