Hong Kong risks reopening mainland border at the worst moment
- Hong Kong is coinciding the border reopening with a huge surge in Covid-19 infections in the mainland
- After waiting years for quarantine-free travel, surely it can wait just a few more months until cases have peaked
Travellers and airlines in Hong Kong are the immediate victims of the new regulations. The city’s government can only protest against the decision by Japan and other countries.
Admittedly, this was not an easy situation for anyone to predict. Nevertheless, the Hong Kong government must take prompt action to minimise the impact.
Now, as Hong Kong gets ready to open its border, and with the axing of testing requirements for incoming travellers, the city can expect a lot more visitors. Given that more than half the passengers on a recent flight from China to Italy tested positive for Covid-19, is our government prepared for the arrival of large numbers of potential Covid carriers?
What is more important for the city is to keep a close eye on the Covid-19 situation in mainland China and implement measures accordingly to contain the spread.
The issue affects local people’s lives. Though Hong Kong has adjusted its medical system to the city’s own Covid-19 situation, it is necessary to keep monitoring incoming travellers from mainland China to ensure the number of cases doesn’t overburden the local healthcare system.
The supply of medication is another issue. The recent shortage of pain relief and flu medicine at chemists suggests the city is not ready for another wave of infections. This is more than a business matter; it is a matter of public interest that requires the Hong Kong government to step in.
Even more severe than the effect on local resources and infrastructure is the impact on the mentality and confidence of Hong Kong people. While many are grateful to see travellers returning, people also worry about the pressure that an increase in visitors will put the city under.
When the public is unable to put its trust in the government, people are more likely to take matters into their own hands. The damage this could cause would be greater than that of temporary government measures.
The Hong Kong government should not be afraid to take precautions to cope with the unfolding situation. Reopening the border is no doubt a priority, but the central government will understand that the timing right now is far from ideal.
Visitors from the mainland, or those in Hong Kong planning a return trip, will also no doubt understand the need for measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 from high-risk areas.
Furthermore, such measures would demonstrate that the Hong Kong government can act on its own on matters of public health, boosting international confidence in Hong Kong’s governance, and strengthening the city’s global connectivity in the long run.
John Hanzhang Ye is a PhD student in science and technology history at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and also holds an MPhil degree in sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong