It is good to learn that the authorities have begun detailed planning for a reopening of the border with mainland China and a sudden surge in traffic before too long – hopefully ahead of Lunar New Year. Cross-border interaction is a pillar of Hong Kong’s economy. Nothing can be left to chance in fully restoring it. But welcome though the foresight is, it does not lessen concerns about he city falling behind the pace of reopening set by other cities – despite the most recent relaxation of Covid controls. Even as the adoption of 0+0 – no quarantine and no medical surveillance for travellers – was being universally welcomed, remainders of the pandemic regime have become contentious talking points. Business leaders and economists warn that it could still take more than a year after all restrictions end before the city’s economy bounces back to pre-coronavirus levels. That does not bode well for Hong Kong. In an international environment where the government faces intense competition for investment, talent and tourists, it cannot afford to be caught on the back foot and give an edge to rivals who have already scrapped controls. In that respect the vaccine pass and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests remain vexing issues. The government may say we need bother no longer with the “Leave Home Safe” app, but Hongkongers still need to show a vaccine pass for entry to many places. There is no apparent reason. Hong Kong has a relatively high – and still rising – rate of community vaccination. The dominant Omicron strain of Covid-19 continues to cause mainly mild or asymptomatic infections. Mask wearing is exemplary. It is not clear why public health would not be just as well served if a vaccine pass were required only at high-risk crowd venues such as concerts and sporting events. China based Covid U-turn on big economic, social picture, top adviser says This is the norm now in other places, while here we must still produce a vaccine pass to enter restaurants. Likewise, businesspeople continue to point out that the PCR test required at the airport, and repeat testing, also remain impediments to Hong Kong’s recovery. They are not easily reconciled with the government’s own rationale for 0+0 – that the incidence of infection among travellers is significantly lower than among the general population. Businesspeople are not prepared to risk being isolated upon arrival if they test positive. It is also not clear why they cannot do the test in their own countries and submit the result online. The government is understandably wary of appearing to lower its guard, especially with winter coming. A conservative approach to relaxation in the wake of the devastating fifth wave of infection has paid dividends, including vaccination rates. With the mainland now also opening up, it is time to cash the dividends in by striking a balance that allows more room for social and economic recovery.