The Chinese government announced on Thursday that it will reopen its border with Hong Kong on January 8, nearly three years after it was largely shut in an effort to contain the spread of Covid.
Up to 60,000 Hong Kong residents will be able to cross the border into the mainland as a gradual reopening of border control points begins, Hong Kong leader John Lee told media on Thursday following an announcement from Beijing.
The shift would will eliminate what had been a mandatory quarantine for travelers from Hong Kong to the mainland. All travelers will be required to test negative for Covid via a PCR test within 48 hours of crossing, and passenger quotas apply to travel in both directions.
The announced reopening falls on the same day China will drop quarantine requirements for international arrivals and scrap a number of Covid restrictions on airlines in place since the start of the pandemic.
The changes come amid Beijing’s sudden dismantling of its stifling Covid controls, following nationwide protests. The apparent reopening of the mainland comes after three years of self-imposed global isolation, during which efforts to resume regular transit with Hong Kong were repeatedly delayed.
Most of previously bustling border crossings between Hong Kong and mainland China had been shut since early 2020, placing a heavy burden on families and businesses with ties on both sides.
The quota includes 50,000 people to travel via three land checkpoints, while the remaining 10,000 are for people traveling via the Hong Kong International Airport, two ferry piers and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.
The cap does not apply to Hong Kong residents traveling back to Hong Kong from the mainland, nor mainland Chinese traveling back to the mainland from Hong Kong, Lee said.
In addition to testing, advance bookings will also be required for some travel.
According to a statement from China’s State Council, flights from Hong Kong and neighboring Macau to mainland China will resume and caps on passenger capacities will be lifted; the number of flights will increase in a “phased and orderly” fashion, the statement said.
Land and maritime border control points between mainland China and Hong Kong and Macao will also resume in a “phased and orderly” manner.
China will also resume issuing tourist and business visas for mainland Chinese residents traveling to Hong Kong, the statement added.