Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said that quarantine-free travel between the city and Mainland China “remains a huge challenge”. Lam made these remarks when asked about the prospects of restriction-free cross-border travel during her final question-and-answer session with the Legislative Council on Thursday.
Lam said that Hong Kong is caught “in the middle” between the differing Covid-19 policies of the Mainland and the rest of the world. “It’s clear by now that many countries around the world have adopted one philosophy in fighting the epidemic and our country adopts another philosophy. In the short term, I don’t see [quarantine-free travel with the Mainland] possible if we follow the thread of discussion we had at the end of last year,” said the CE.
There were reports that quarantine-free travel between the SAR and the Mainland would resume in December 2021. Last month, Lam said that one condition for reopening the borders was that Hong Kong needed to have no local [Covid-19] infections for a while.
However, those plans were stalled because of the outbreak of the city’s fifth wave of the epidemic in December 2021. Cases have abated since March 2022 and the government started gradually lifting the city’s most stringent anti-epidemic measures that month. That has led to an increase in local infections, especially after the second phase of social distancing relaxation began in May.
“We previously had 200-300 cases [a day]. Now we have 500-600 cases a day. But according to experts, there is no need to implement immediate responsive measures, such as tightening the social distancing measures,” said Lam, reiterating what she previously stated about the government maintaining the current restrictions on international arrivals and social distancing until the end of her term in office on June 30.
When asked about whether the next government, which will be led by ex-Chief Secretary for Administration John Lee, will continue with the current restrictions when it takes over on July 1, Lam said, “With the new government assuming office, I am not in a position to comment whether they will be able to adjust their policy.”
Header image credits: N509FZ via WikiCommons