BEIJING (AP) – After two years of separation from his Chinese wife, Hong Kong resident Cheung Seng-bun made sure to be among the first in line following the opening of the border crossing on Sunday. .
The ability of residents of southern China to have the right to pass is one of the most visible signs of China’s easing of restrictions, as foreign travelers no longer need to be quarantined.
“I’m in a hurry to get back to him,” Cheung, carrying a large suitcase, told The Associated Press as he prepared to cross the Lok Ma Chau station.
Passengers crossing between Hong Kong and mainland China are now required to show a negative COVID-19 test taken in the past 48 hours – something China has protested after other countries have ordered it.
Hong Kong has been hit hard by the disease, and its land and sea inspection center has been closed for nearly three years. Despite the risk of new infections, the re-opening which will allow tens of thousands of people who have made online bookings to pass each day will provide a significant boost to tourism and Hong Kong’s business sector.
In a visit to the station on Sunday morning, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said that the division will continue to expand the number of crossing points from the current seven to a total of 14.
Lee told reporters, “The goal is to return as quickly as possible to normal life before the disease spreads.” “We want to get cooperation between the two sides along the way.”
The Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper quoted Tan Luming, a port official in Shenzhen on the Hong Kong border, as saying that about 200 passengers are expected to take the ferry to Hong Kong, while another 700 are expected to travel to ‘the other side, and the first. day of opening. Tan said a steady increase in the number of passengers is expected in the coming days.
A Hong Kong woman surnamed Cheung said: “I stayed up all night and got up at 4am because I was so happy to go back to the mainland to see my 80-year-old mother. .arrived in Shenzhen, where he was given “roses and medical supplies,” the newspaper said.
Hong Kong media reports said 300,000 travel bookings have already been made from the city to China.
Limited ferry service has been restored from China’s Fujian province to Taiwan-controlled Kinmen Island off the coast of China.
Crossing the border with Russia in Suifenhe in the northern province of Heilongjiang also began normal operations, during the opening of the ice festival in the capital city of Harbin, a major tourist attraction.
China’s borders are still tightly closed, however, with only a fraction of the previous number of international flights arriving at major airports.
Beijing Capital International Airport is expecting eight flights from overseas on Sunday, according to the airport. Shanghai, China’s largest city, received its first international flight under the new policy at 6:30 a.m. followed by only a handful of other international flights.
That number is now expected to rise, with booking inquiries for overseas flights overwhelming some online travel services ahead of the New Year holiday next month. Capital International is preparing to open a lobby that has been quiet for the past three years.
Meanwhile, Shanghai announced that it will resume issuing regular passports to Chinese nationals for overseas travel and family visits, as well as renewing and extending visas for foreigners. The bans have affected foreign investors and students in Asia’s main financial center.
China is now facing a lawsuit in the hospital in cities and is preparing support for expansion into less developed areas at the beginning of China’s most important holiday of the year, which will start in the coming days.
Authorities said they expect rail and air traffic to double the same time last year, bringing the total number to 2019’s holiday season before the pandemic hit.
Meanwhile, the controversy continues over the recent tests imposed by foreign governments on Chinese travelers – Germany and Sweden. On Saturday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urged citizens to avoid “unnecessary” travel to China, citing the rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the country and saying that China’s health system is “overwhelmed”.
German law also allows for spot checks on arrival and Germany, like other European countries, will test waste water from aircraft for possible new types of viruses. The measures took effect from midnight on Monday and will last until April 7.
Clearly worried about its reputation, China said the testing requirements were unscientific and resembled an unspecified preventive measure.
China’s health authorities publish daily numbers of new cases, severe cases and deaths, but those numbers include only officially confirmed cases and use a narrow definition of deaths related to COVID-19.
Officials said that since the government stopped mandatory testing and allowed people with mild symptoms to self-test and self-recover at home, it could no longer provide detailed information on the new outbreak situation.
Government spokesmen have said the situation is under control and rejected allegations from the National Health Commission and others that it is not clear about the number of cases and deaths or providing other critical information. and the nature of current outbreaks that may lead to outbreaks. of new variants.
Despite such claims, the Health Commission on Saturday issued regulations for strict monitoring of bacterial reproduction, including testing of municipal waste water. The lengthy rules call for data collection from hospitals and local government health departments and improved research on “pneumonia of unknown cause.”
Criticism focused on strict enforcement of the law, including open-ended travel restrictions that saw people confined to their homes for weeks, sometimes locked inside without food or adequate medical care.
Anger has also been expressed over the requirement that anyone can test positive or meet with such a person for an examination at a field hospital, where overcrowding, poor food and sanitation are common.
The social and economic costs later sparked rare street protests in Beijing and other cities, perhaps influencing the Communist Party’s decision to quickly ease tough policies and restore growth. .
As part of a new reform, China will no longer bring criminal charges against people accused of violating anti-isolation laws, according to an announcement by five government departments on Saturday.
Individuals currently in custody will be released and property seized will be returned, the notice said.
Transport officials on Friday called on travelers to reduce travel and gatherings, especially if they involve the elderly, pregnant women, small children and people with disabilities.
Associated Press reporters Alice Fung and Karmen Li in Hong Kong and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.