Hong Kong’s Covid restrictions for travellers were, and probably still are, among the world’s toughest. But compared to the three weeks of confinement in a hotel room a year ago, the current three days of restricted movement and tests for arrivals are already a welcome change. While the pursuit of further relaxations must come with caution, the pace must keep up with the global trend. The confirmation by Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu that the status quo will remain for the time being has understandably disappointed many here and abroad. Referring to the emergence of a new coronavirus subvariant and a surge in imported infections following the abolition of hotel isolation, Lee cautioned against scrapping the three-day medical surveillance, under which travellers are banned from entering restaurants and other public venues and must undergo more tests. It is a fact that the daily imported cases have doubled to some 300 since hotel quarantine was lifted two weeks ago. The total number of infections is also hovering at around 4,000 to 5,000 a day. As more Hongkongers go for holidays overseas, the numbers are likely to spiral further. Even though the assessment of the impact at this stage is not alarming, the Lee administration has opted for caution. For a city that is still struggling to move beyond a devastating fifth wave of the virus, a “steady and orderly” approach for recovery is perhaps not wrong. But officials must avoid giving the impression that they are dragging their feet. Some countries in the region have long lifted travel restrictions as the pandemic stabilises. The city will lose out further if it does not strive to close the gap as soon as practicable. This view is also shared by the government, which has repeatedly pledged to provide the maximum latitude for social and economic activities while keeping the epidemic under control. But it must also be more responsive to the clamour for further opening up. Opinion: A reopened mainland border is vital for Hong Kong’s recovery Lee would not be drawn on whether he was waiting for Beijing’s approval to further ease entry requirements, but he conceded that keeping the Covid situation under control would provide “a much stronger basis” in talks on reopening the border with the mainland. He also made it clear there was no conflict with the relaxation of travel restrictions for those coming from overseas. Hopefully, the rising numbers of imported infections will not dampen the prospect of reconnecting with the rest of the country and the world. The city has been alienated for too long. At stake is not only public health, but also the economy and people’s livelihoods. Every effort must be made to bring life back to normal. How to strike a balance shall continue to put the government to the test, and the quicker the pace of recovery, the better.