Hong Kong Announces Planned Reopening of Border with China as Cases of Omnion Soar

By: News Team

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Hong Kong Announces Planned Reopening of Border with China as Cases of Omnion Soar

China, facing a new wave of COVID-19 infections, took another step toward easing its pandemic-related restrictions on Saturday when Hong Kong’s leader announced his goal would be to reopen its borders with the mainland by mid-January.

At a news conference upon his return from Beijing, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said authorities intend to reopen “gradually, orderly and completely” all entry points between the two sides, and coordinate with the government of nearby Shenzhen to manage the flow of people.

Currently, people wishing to enter mainland China through Hong Kong can only do so through the city’s airport or through two checkpoints: Shenzhen Bay or the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

In addition, they must spend a period of quarantine in a hotel before being able to move freely.

Hong Kong and Beijing closed their borders in early 2020, when COVID came to light, and have remained closed ever since, as China has limited the entry of travelers as part of its strict “zero COVID” policy.

Earlier this month, Beijing eased national COVID restrictions, removing mandatory testing requirements and travel restrictions.

While many have welcomed this relaxation, families and the health system were unprepared for the resulting rise in infections. Hospitals are scrambling for beds and blood, pharmacies are getting medicines, and authorities are rushing to build clinics.

CHRISTMAS WITH COVID

Before Christmas, Shanghai authorities urged residents to stay home this weekend to slow the spread of the virus. The holiday is not traditionally celebrated in China, but it is common for young couples and some families to spend the holidays together.

Despite those warnings, an annual Christmas market held in the Bund, a shopping area, was packed with attendees.

“My friends are all positive, and they have all recovered,” said Liu Yang, 23, a computer worker who attended the market. “We wanted to take advantage of Christmas, and it’s the weekend, we wanted to walk around and enjoy the air, so we came here.”

Still, the spread of omicron is tarnishing the festivities of other businesses and restaurants.

Many Shanghai restaurants have canceled the Christmas holidays they normally hold for their regular customers, while hotels have limited bookings due to staff shortages, says Jacqueline Mocatta, who works in the hospitality industry.

“We can only accept a certain number of clients, given the shortage of staff, as most team members are not well at the moment,” he explained.

According to the British health data company Airfinity, China is likely to have more than one million infections a day and more than 5,000 deaths per day, which is a “stark contrast” with official data.

On Saturday, China’s national health authority reported 4,128 daily symptomatic COVID-19 infections, and no deaths for the fourth consecutive day.

Bloomberg News reported Friday that nearly 37 million people could have been infected with COVID in a single day last week, citing estimates from the government’s top health authority. Authorities did not comment on the report.

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