Experts need to connect for borders to reopen

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says health experts from the mainland and Hong Kong should discuss the resumption of cross-border travel amid the easing of Covid-19.

Lam, speaking at a Legislative Council question-and-answer session yesterday, said the city cannot adopt the policy of co-existence with the virus or the city will have no hope of reopening borders with the mainland.

Lam told lawmakers she has never stopped lobbying the central government to reopen the borders with Hong Kong since the fourth wave of Covid came to an end.

“I cannot speak on behalf of mainland authorities and the National Health Commission in what areas Hong Kong needs to further strengthen in order to resume cross-border travel, but I have proposed to the central government that we need exchanges between the experts so that the gradual and orderly reopening can take place,” Lam said.

“The discussion could help us figure out what we need to do to reopen the border, which is better than us proposing measures unilaterally.”

Even if Hong Kong comes up with measures by itself, they may not be accepted by mainland experts and authorities, Lam said.

She added: “The mainland has made great efforts to keep the pandemic under control. It does not want to weaken the control and have mainland citizens infected because of the border opening with Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong will discuss the detailed plan of border reopening not only with the Guangdong and Shenzhen governments but also the central government because there is a Covid joint prevention and control mechanism in the mainland.

Alice Mak Mei-kuen, a lawmaker of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, said the government should improve the tracing function of the “LeaveHomeSafe” app so it can link up with the health code in the mainland.

Lam said she would not respond on technical issues, but said the Hong Kong government will spare no effort in achieving requirements proposed by the mainland to resume quarantine-free travel.

“During our discussion with mainland authorities, if they come up with some preconditions to facilitate border reopening, the SAR government will try its best to meet those requirements,” she said.

Lam said Hong Kong has done a good job in controlling the pandemic and there had been no locally transmitted case in the SAR for more than 21 days.

“We also adopted strict measures to prevent imported cases from spreading into the local community. The measures are so strict that some foreign chambers of commerce have even opposed them,” Lam said.

Insurance sector lawmaker Chan Kin-por said many countries in the world, including Singapore, have adopted a “living with the virus” strategy, appealing to the Hong Kong government to resume international travel to maintain the city’s status as an international financial center.

But Lam said such a strategy would make border reopening with the mainland impossible and the SAR will still try to maintain zero local infections.

“I think Hong Kong cannot, and should not, adopt the ‘living with the virus’ strategy,” Lam said.

She was also concerned about cross-boundary students in Shenzhen as they could not go to school in Hong Kong.

The Fung Kai No 1 Primary School in Sheung Shui has set up a center in Shenzhen where students go for classes and extracurricular activities.

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