Hong Kong in final talks on opening China border

A quota for quarantine-free travel could be initially imposed, Sing Tao newspaper reported. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong is in advanced discussions with Chinese officials about reopening their shared border, local media reported, a major breakthrough on reviving travel exchanges crucial to the Asian financial hub's economy.

Experts from both sides are expected to soon hold a second meeting with a final decision on the resumption of travel imminent, Sing Tao newspaper reported on Wednesday (Nov 3), citing unidentified people.

Discussions are focused on whether Hong Kong will adopt a mainland-style health code system that will classify people as green, yellow or red. Only those with a green pass would be cleared to travel to the mainland, according to the newspaper.

A quota for quarantine-free travel could be initially imposed, the paper reported, adding that officials are also considering a "circuit breaker" to immediately suspend the system in an emergency.

Even the partial resumption of cross-border travel would be a major step for Hong Kong, which has basically eliminated local transmission of the coronavirus by imposing some of the world's strictest Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Incoming residents face mandatory hotel quarantines for as long as 21 days even if vaccinated.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a group of executives on Tuesday that "business needs will take precedence over individual tourists", once travel ties resume, according to the South China Morning Post.

She added that there will be quotas and conditions once travel does restart, the paper reported.

The city's leaders have for months prioritised reopening the border with the mainland over resuming international travel, prompting frustration among many business groups.

At the same time, the Hong Kong authorities have been unable to spell out clear targets mainland officials want the former British colony to meet to restart travel to China, which is now tackling virus outbreaks across the nation.

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