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Thousands cross Hong Kong-China border as Covid restrictions end


Tens of thousands of travelers crossed in both directions between mainland China and Hong Kong on Sunday, in the process of reopening the border, ending nearly three years of separation due to Beijing’s strict Covid-free regime. cause.

Its high-speed rail link with mainland China is scheduled to be re-established on January 15.

China removed cross-border quarantine requirements, replaced by the need to simply test negative for Covid, are the final step in the process dramatic relaxation of an approach that includes frequent lockdowns, mass testing, and strict restrictions on leaving the country.

Before Covid, Chinese tourists represented the largest source of outbound tourism globally, but international tourism has stalled after the pandemic began in early 2020 and the border with the Special Administrative Region Hong Kong is also locked down.

At a border checkpoint in Lok Ma Chau near Shenzhen on Sunday morning, long lines of mainland visitors to Hong Kong emphasized the importance of reopening.

Peter Yin, 25, an IT engineer in Shenzhen, who was visiting a friend for two days, said: “I miss the night view of Victoria Harbor the most. He said he couldn’t believe the borders were finally reopened.

The expected influx of mainlanders into Hong Kong is being seen as a much-needed boost to the territory’s struggling economy, which is projected to shrink 3.2% next year. 2022. Analysts forecast retail sales growth of 10 to 20% this year.

Local authorities said about 28,800 people had crossed the border at three checkpoints in both directions at 4pm on Sunday. Hong Kong has capped daily crossings at around 60,000 in each direction, during a phased reopening, including a limit of 50,000 at three land border crossings with neighboring Shenzhen.

Its high-speed rail link with mainland China is scheduled to be re-established on January 15.

Hong Kong leader John Lee told reporters at the border on Sunday that the plan was to end the quotas and fully reopen as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the global tourism industry is preparing for the return of Chinese tourism. According to Citi, about 155 million Chinese residents traveled abroad in 2019 before the pandemic and spent a total of $255 billion. Hong Kong welcomed 44 million mainland Chinese visitors in 2019 out of a total of 56 million visitors even as anti-government protests in 2019 dampened demand.

Hong Kongers, many of whom have families abroad, are also eager to visit the mainland during the Lunar New Year, with most of the available seats sold out in the online booking system, under quota agreements. .

Robert Yu, a university student traveling from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, said he felt “emotional” to be able to return to the mainland with his brother for the first time in three years. He plans to stay until the end of January to see his family.

“My grandfather is 87 years old and his health is not good,” said the 23-year-old. “I am really happy to be able to see them again. I have been waiting for this reopening for three years.”

Owners of factories in Hong Kong on the mainland, especially in neighboring Guangdong province, are also planning to return to review their operations.

Danny Lau, honorary chairman of the Hong Kong Small and Medium Enterprises Association, who owns two factories in the province, last visited them in January 2020 and is considering a visit next month.

“Some other factory owners I know are also planning to return in February after [Chinese new year] then it’s holiday time to start working with their employees,” he said.

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