Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday the government was now in the final stages of ironing out an agreement with Macau and mainland authorities to allow Hong Kongers living in those areas to return to the SAR without undergoing a 14-day mandatory quarantine.
Speaking to reporters ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam said this is part of a strategy to gradually resume the movement of people in the region.
"In order to revive the economy – and also to meet public aspirations after a very long period of eight, nine months – it is time for us to take a very pragmatic approach to allow people flow, whether between Hong Kong and mainland, and Hong Kong and Macau, and Hong Kong and other overseas places," she said.
Lam stressed that any agreement will take into account the public health situation, adding that the economy will suffer "tremendously" if the city is hit by another wave of infections.
She said there was a good scientific basis to relax border controls between Hong Kong and the mainland given the Covid-19 situation across the border was "under good control", as there has been no locally-confirmed cases there for a long period, only imported cases.
However, she acknowledged that Hong Kong still has some risks, so the easing of restrictions should be done in "a gradual and orderly manner".
"In dealing with the gradual and orderly manner, then naturally there is an expectation that Hong Kong residents now residing in the mainland should be given earlier priority to return to Hong Kong without being subject to the 14-day mandatory quarantine arrangement provided that they can show a negative test of Covid-19."
Meanwhile, the CE also said most of the government's social distancing restrictions, which are due to expire on Thursday, will be extended for another week.
She said even though the local Covid-19 pandemic is easing, one unknown infection was reported over the past week, indicating that there's still silent transmission in the community.
She urged people to stay vigilant and practice strict personal hygiene.