However, travelers crossing between Hong Kong and mainland China are still required to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 48 hours, a move China has protested when imposed by other countries.
In a visit to the station on Sunday morning, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said the parties would continue to expand the number of crossing points from the current seven to a full 14.
“The goal is to return to normal pre-epidemic life as quickly as possible,” Lee told reporters. “We want to get the cooperation between the two parties back on track.”
communist party newspaper global times Tan Luming, a port official in Shenzhen on the border with Hong Kong, was quoted as saying about 200 passengers were expected to take the ferry to Hong Kong, while another 700 would travel in the other direction, on the first day of reopening. Tan said a steady increase in passenger numbers is expected in the coming days.
“I stayed up all night and got up at 4 am because I am so excited to go back to the mainland to see my 80-year-old mother,” said a Hong Kong woman identified only by her last name, Cheung, upon arriving in Shenzhen. . , where she was presented with “roses and first-aid kits,” the newspaper said.
Many Chinese are also expected to start traveling abroad, a long-awaited change for tourist spots in countries like Thailand and Indonesia, though several governments, concerned about China’s COVID surge, are placing restrictions on travelers from the country.
Travel will not quickly return to pre-pandemic levels due to factors such as a shortage of international flights, analysts say.
China also on Sunday resumed issuing passports and travel visas for mainland residents, and ordinary visas and residence permits for foreigners. Beijing has quotas on the number of people who can travel between Hong Kong and China each day.
China now faces a surge in cases and hospitalizations in major cities and is bracing for further spread in less-developed areas with the start of China’s biggest holiday of the year set to kick off in the coming days.
Officials say they expect domestic air and rail travel to double over the same period last year, bringing the overall numbers closer to those of the 2019 holiday period before the pandemic hit.
Meanwhile, controversy continues over the testing requirements that foreign governments impose on Chinese travelers, most recently Germany and Sweden. China says they have no scientific basis and has threatened unspecified countermeasures.
Chinese health authorities publish a daily tally of new cases, severe cases, and deaths, but those numbers include only officially confirmed cases and use a very narrow definition of COVID-19-related deaths.
Officials say that since the government ended mandatory testing and allowed people with mild symptoms to get tested and convalesce at home, they can no longer provide a complete picture of the status of the latest outbreak.
Government spokesmen have said the situation is under control and reject accusations by the World Health Organization and others that it is not being transparent about the number of cases and deaths or providing other crucial information about the nature of the current outbreak that could lead to apparition. of new variants.
Despite such claims, the Health Commission on Saturday implemented regulations to strengthen monitoring for viral mutations, including testing of urban wastewater. The sweeping rules called for increased data collection from hospitals and local government health departments and intensified checks on “pneumonia of unknown causes.”
Criticism has largely focused on the strict enforcement of the regulations, including unlimited travel restrictions that forced people to stay confined to their homes for weeks, sometimes locked up without proper food or medical care.
Anger was also sparked by the requirement that anyone who potentially tested positive or had been in contact with such a person be confined for observation in a field hospital, where overcrowding, poor diet and hygiene were commonly cited.
The social and economic costs ultimately sparked rare street protests in Beijing and other cities, possibly influencing the Communist Party’s decision to quickly ease the strictest measures and prioritize growth.
As part of the latest changes, China will no longer file criminal charges against people accused of violating border quarantine rules, according to a notice issued on Saturday by five government departments.
Those currently in custody will be released and the seized assets will be returned, according to the notice.
The Transport Ministry on Friday called on travelers to reduce travel and gatherings, particularly if they involve the elderly, pregnant women, young children and people with underlying conditions.
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