The increasing urgency of economic recovery has tipped the balance against mainland China’s zero-Covid policy. This comes against a background of worsening trade figures, employment worries and growing public protests against prolonged pandemic controls that have led to clashes with the authorities. Beijing has announced a major loosening, dismantling mass testing and quarantine requirements and reducing the use of the health-code system to control people’s movements. Separately, Hong Kong has also unveiled a relaxation, bringing in a shorter isolation period for infected people and close contacts. But it is very incremental and leaves room for much more. A statement issued after a Politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping left no doubt the country’s new leadership has prioritised economic and social stability over zero-Covid. “We must make economic stability our top priority and pursue progress while ensuring stability,” it said. The primary decision-making body considered falls in exports and imports in November from a year earlier of 8.7 per cent and 10.6 per cent respectively. These reflect the depressing effect on demand of inflation and rising interest rates abroad and Covid restrictions at home. As a result the authorities issued a 10-point revision of zero-Covid before a very recent fine tuning had even taken full effect. The scientific assessment that Omicron variants of Covid are less lethal if more contagious made the big shift easier. That weighed with the leadership in terms of the risk to the 1.4 billion population. The relaxation is, wisely, coupled with a new effort to raise worryingly low vaccination rates among the elderly to combat any acceleration of contagion. It is an overdue, calculated step in the right direction. With major holidays coming up, easier travel will be a shot in the arm for the economy. The relaxation does not amount to living with the virus. 3,000 travellers a day possible when Hong Kong-mainland China border reopens Rightly, it remains cautious, given the potential threat of the coming flu season and a relatively underdeveloped national public health system. That said, the road ahead remains unclear and problematical, given Covid is no closer to being eradicated. Nonetheless Beijing’s move has raised pressure on the Hong Kong government to make more meaningful steps towards restoring normal life, such as reopening the border with the mainland and dispensing with three days’ medical surveillance as well as quarantine for travellers. It is time for Hong Kong, itself mired in negative growth ahead of the holiday season, to be more proactive in talking to the other side about easing border restrictions, raising quotas and ultimately reopening the crossing. It is to be expected mainland officials will be pre-occupied with their own issues. Local officials need to reach out to them about our own problems.