More than 440k residents apply for HK health code amid reports border reopening likely to happen around Dec. 21
Published: Dec 14, 2021 09:43 PM
A Hong Kong resident scans a health code on December 10, 2021. More than 83,000 people have submitted applications for the Hong Kong Health Code in the first few hours of registration, delivering hope for cross-border commuters and businesspeople waiting for the border between the special administrative region and mainland to reopen. Photo: VCG

A Hong Kong resident scans a health code on December 10, 2021. Photo: VCG

More than 440,000 residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) have applied for Hong Kong health code accounts as of Tuesday morning, and 150,000 of the accounts have been activated, said HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam, amid reports which suggested that the border between the city and Chinese mainland would reopen around December 21 to resume quarantine-free travels. 

John Lee Ka-chiu, Chief Secretary for Administration, led a delegation to discuss the details of resuming quarantine-free travel with officials in South China's Guangdong Province. Apart from official and business needs, residents in need will also be able to apply for mainland-HK border reopening quotas, according to Lam at a press conference on Tuesday.

With continuing efforts against the importation of cases and local flareups, as well as the goal of dynamic zero infections, the HKSAR government is fully prepared for the implementation of an orderly resumption of quarantine-free travel, Lee said at a meeting on Tuesday with Zhang Xin, Vice Governor of Guangdong, and other provincial officials .

For the task force on boundary control points, set up on November 25 as part of  the anti-epidemic work of the mainland and Hong Kong, the meeting focused on matters including quarantine procedures, crowd control, operational flow and contingency arrangements, according to an online press release by the HKSAR government. 

Both sides will also continue to discuss the implementation details of different stages with effective and mutual cooperation.

The HKSAR government is expected to unveil a plan to reopen the border before LegCo elections on December 19, and the border between Hong Kong and the mainland is expected to reopen to resume quarantine-free travels around December 21, a source familiar with the situation told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Local media outlet reported on Tuesday that the border is likely to reopen around the Winter Solstice Festival, the shortest day of the year, which falls on December 21, and the local government will soon announce the plan in a bid to inject positive energy ahead of the upcoming elections.  

Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the NPC Standing Committee from Hong Kong, told the Global Times that he plans to come to Beijing for an NPC Standing Committee meeting on December 20, and he believes that the plan to reopen the border will soon be announced.

Concerns rose over the border reopening plan after Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong, became the second city on the mainland to detect the Omicron variant due to an imported case on Tuesday after North China's Tianjin Municipality reported the first imported case of Omicron on Monday.

Lam said at the press conference that the Omicron variant has caused great concern around the world, especially in Europe. Many governments are trying to prevent the variant from entering their communities, and HKSAR government is particularly vigilant, according to Lam.

She said that HKSAR government had been working closely with the mainland to prevent Omicron cases from entering the community. 

As all the seven confirmed cases of Omicron were detected during the "test-and-hold" arrangement at the Hong Kong International Airport or during the mandatory quarantine period, Lam said "At this moment, I do not see any change to what we are doing in terms of resumption of normal travel into the mainland as a result of Omicron." "But because this variant and the whole situation could be changing very rapidly, I could provide no absolute guarantee," she noted.

Lam stressed the importance to get vaccinated, noting that the government has launched booster shots for people who have received two doses of the Sinovac vaccine for more than six months. Only high-risk groups can take the third dose of the BioNTech vaccine, she said.