Chief Secretary Eric Chan said on Saturday that there are still plenty of spaces left for Hongkongers wanting to travel to the mainland in the coming weeks despite a rush of bookings since registration opened on Thursday.
He revealed that almost 400,000 people had secured places from Sunday, when quarantine-free travel resumes, until March 4. The number of bookings had reached 410,000 by 6pm on Saturday, 48 hours after registrations opened.
Speaking on Commercial Radio, Chan said officials would monitor the situation and, if things go smoothly, increase the quota and open more crossings. He said a full reopening was still the aim.
“We’ve opened bookings for the next eight weeks. With a daily quota of 50,000, there are almost three million places available. There are adequate spots for people who would like to go to the mainland during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday,” he said.
“People can plan their trip ahead. I hope all these arrangements will be convenient for citizens who would like to cross the border.”
People travelling will need to show the result of a negative PCR test.
Chan explained that this requirement was intended to prevent cross-infection between people in Hong Kong and the mainland and alleviate concern among Hong Kong residents that imported infections could overburden the SAR's medical system.
He noted people who needed a test could easily book one, with up to 120,000 tests available each day.
Under the new arrangements, Hong Kong residents returning to the SAR and mainland people leaving Hong Kong are exempt from the quota. Besides the 50,000 places available each way at land crossings, about 10,000 spaces for flights, ferry trips or bus crossings of the bridge to Zhuhai are available daily.
Shenzhen authorities said on Saturday evening that 1,600 people had registered to cross at the Futian checkpoint on Sunday. Some 35,000 daily crossings are permitted at the crossing, which connects to Lok Ma Chau.
Chan said one key issue that officials from both sides are still discussing is what arrangements should be be put in place after the Lunar New Year holiday for 20,000 children who live on the mainland to come to school in Hong Kong every day.
He said these pupils would not need to make bookings to cross the border, but he admitted it would not be ideal if they had to take PCR tests every day.
Chan said officials would discuss whether PCR tests could be replaced by self-administered rapid antigen tests.
He added that designated channels and counters would be opened for these pupils to travel across the border in a convenient, orderly and safe manner.
Last updated: 2023-01-07 HKT 18:43