January 9, 2023
HONG KONG – Hong Kong’s four border control points at Lok Ma Chau, Man Kam To, the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan and China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui saw thousands of travellers converging in the early morning of Sunday to cross over to the mainland without the need to quarantine for the first time in three years.
Thousands were already waiting when the Lok Ma Chau point opened for service at 6:30 am and when the first batch of visitors from mainland crossed over to Hong Kong at Futian Port in Shenzhen, the two-way flow had firmly established that three years of separation was definitely a thing of the past now.
The Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point opened on Sunday for the first time since February 2020.
The passengers will not be subject to quarantine, but need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 48 hours
Starting Sunday, 60,000 people a day will be allowed to travel each way between Hong Kong and the mainland via seven border ports.
The passengers will not be subject to quarantine, but need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 48 hours.
After inspecting the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point Sunday morning, John Lee Ka-chiu, chief executive of China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), said the first day of the border reopening was smooth, safe and orderly.
The HKSAR government has said a daily quota of 60,000 Hong Kong residents are allowed to enter the mainland, in which 50,000 of them are allocated at the three land control points – Shenzhen Bay, Man Kam To and Lok Ma Chau Spur Line. The remaining 10,000 quota is available through ferry terminals, the Hong Kong International Airport and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.
Lee said residents made most of their reservations to visit the mainland on Jan 20, followed by Jan 19 and Jan 21 – the three days preceding the Lunar New Year, which falls on Jan 22 this year. As of early Sunday morning, there were still about 1,000 booking slots available for Jan 20.
In terms of the number of bookings, the most popular checkpoint was the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line control point, while Shenzhen Bay Port had most of its booking slots filled up, Lee said.
Wang Pengjun, a Shanghai resident working in Hong Kong, did not return to the mainland for nearly three years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. He took the first metro train to Lok Ma Chau Station early Sunday morning, looking forward to getting reunited with his family.
Wang appreciated the efforts made by the HKSAR government and the mainland authorities, which he said fulfilled people’s long-awaited wishes.
Cheung Chi-keung, head of cross-boundary operations at MTR Corporation, said up to 9,000 commuters had crossed over to the mainland via Lok Ma Chau by 11am on Sunday, using the MTR East Rail Line.
He said operations at the station and on the East Rail Line had been smooth on Sunday morning, as the company had added staff and strengthened services to cope with the increased traffic.
Chris Tang Ping-keung told reporters at the Shenzhen Bay Port that as of 10 am of Sunday, about 7000 people left Hong Kong for the mainland, including 5000 crossed the border via the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point and 2000 via the Shenzhen Bay Port.
A daily quota of 50,000 at the three land control points is also applied to mainland residents heading to Hong Kong. Shenzhen’s Shekou port and Fuyong Ferry Terminal are controlled through ticketing mechanism, while land control points arrange the number of daily outbound passengers through the reservation system.
Fung, who only gave his surname, a Hong Kong resident working in Shenzhen, took a taxi to the Futian Control Point and waited in line to cross the border. He said he was excited and would stay longer in Hong Kong this time as he had not seen his family for nearly three years.
The Man Kam To checkpoint reopened at 7am on Sunday. Mainland staff at the port prepared for travelers 500 gift bags that contained masks, disinfectants, and cards with information on transportation available nearby. The mainland authorities also set up a signature wall for travelers who wanted to write their views about the resumption of normal travel.
Long queues were also seen at the China Ferry Terminal. A spokesperson for Chu Kong Shipping Company said about 100 cross-boundary ferry tickets had been sold by Saturday and Sunday morning, with north-bound passengers being the majority.
Shenzhen and Hong Kong will review the first phase of border reopening in a week. On the basis of consensus reached by both sides, arrangement of the second phase will be announced.
From 9 am on Friday, mainland residents were able to make reservations for entering Hong Kong through the online booking system operated by the Shenzhen authorities. Each reservation allowed for up to four travellers.
Separately at 6 pm on Thursday, Hong Kong opened its booking system for residents entering the mainland.
With Xinhua inputs