China to fully resume travel with Hong Kong, Macau on Feb 6

People line up at a government office after China reopened borders, in Beijing
People line up at a government office for entry and exit matters which provides services including making or renewing passports or permits to go to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, after China reopened borders, in Beijing, China January 9, 2023. REUTERS/Yew Lun Tian

HONG KONG, Feb 3 (Reuters) - China said on Friday that cross border travel between the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau would fully resume from Feb. 6, dropping existing quotas and scrapping a mandatory COVID-19 test that was required before travelling.

Group tours between China and its two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau would resume, while the number of customs checkpoints open will return to pre-pandemic levels, China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said in a statement on its website.

Even after China reopened its borders to the world on Jan. 8, a quota system and COVID testing requirement remained for travellers between the mainland and Hong Kong.

The three border checkpoints that have not yet reopened will do so from Feb. 6, Hong Kong's leader John Lee said at a press conference on Friday.

Hong Kong will also scrap a COVID vaccination requirement to enter Hong Kong for all arrivals, including non-Hong Kong residents, Lee added.

Searches on Chinese travel website Qunar for round trip air tickets to and from Hong Kong and the mainland increased seven-fold on Friday after China's announcement, data from state media China Transportation News showed.

China's announcement came a day after Hong Kong launched a promotion campaign including 500,000 free flights to lure back visitors, businesses and investors to the financial hub after more than three years of tough COVID curbs.

Hong Kong was largely sealed off behind closed borders for much of the past three years in a bid to ward off COVID, with mandatory quarantine of up to three weeks for people arriving as well as intensive testing and screening.

The former British colony closely followed China's zero-COVID policy until the middle of 2022 when it began to gradually unwind its rules.

Hong Kong dropped most of its remaining COVID rules in December, but mask-wearing remains mandatory unless exercising, and students must take daily rapid antigen tests.

Reporting by Farah Master and Twinnie Siu in Hong Kong, Liz Lee and Ethan Wang in Beijing; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Jamie Freed

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Farah Master is a Senior Correspondent at Reuters where she focuses on health, demographics and the environment in China. She has worked for Reuters in London, Beijing and Shanghai before moving to Hong Kong in 2013. With a background spanning reporting in markets, companies, sports, political and general news, and economics, she was also part of a team named as a Pulitzer finalist in 2020 for investigative reports on the revolt of Hong Kong. Farah speaks English, Mandarin and Spanish. She has a Masters in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. Contact: +85296318262