HK eases COVID-19 limits for mainlanders

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From September 15, mainland and Macau residents who haven't been to medium- or high-risk areas can enter Hong Kong without quarantine.
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Some residents from China's mainland and Macau will be allowed to enter Hong Kong without undergoing quarantine, Hong Kong's top official said on Tuesday, easing curbs imposed after summer outbreaks of the coronavirus on the mainland.

From September 15, mainland and Macau residents who haven't been to medium- or high-risk areas can enter Hong Kong without quarantine via the Shenzhen Bay port and via the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge, capped at 1,000 visitors each, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

They will still need a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival and must take several tests while in Hong Kong to ensure they're not infected.

Visitors would have to undergo 14 days of quarantine on return to the mainland or Macau.

From Wednesday, Lam said Hong Kong residents would be allowed to return to the city from China's mainland or Macau without undergoing quarantine, provided they do not arrive from high-risk areas. Hong Kong halted quarantine-free travel in early August and imposed a mandatory quarantine period of seven or 14 days, depending on the traveler's vaccination status.

Hong Kong has imposed strict border restrictions and ban flights from extremely high-risk countries, in the hopes that no local community spread would allow it to reopen borders with China's mainland.

The changes, part of the "Come2HK" plan, are expected to boost the city's tourism industry, which took a beating during months of violent protests in 2019 and pandemic-related border restrictions. Tourist numbers fell by as much as 99 percent in 2020 compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Officials say Hong Kong's vaccination rate needs to be much higher to relax in a safe manner. Around 60 percent of the population have received one dose but rates for the elderly are among the lowest in the world due to worries about vaccine safety.

Hong Kong has recorded around 12,000 coronavirus cases and 212 deaths.

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