Chinese tourists in Hong Kong in a file photo. Photo: Twitter

The local business community has urged the Hong Kong government to end quarantine measures for some incoming travelers from the mainland after the current round expires on May 7.

Due to a decline in the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 infections, Hong Kong should consider gradually lifting some of its social-distancing and quarantine measures, Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, an Executive Council member and a lawmaker representing many in the commercial sector, told the Sing Tao Daily.

Lam said incoming business travelers should be exempted from the current 14-day quarantine measures. He said such a move could revitalize business activities across Hong Kong and the mainland. 

Yiu Si-wing, a legislator with strong links to the tourism sector, suggested the government allow incoming travelers to enter to visit relatives or work and they be exempted from the quarantine measures.

Yiu said the exemption could be gradually extended from Macau to Guangdong province, and then to Chinese cities that have direct flights to Hong Kong, such as Shanghai. 

It would not be necessary for business travelers to be the first batch of people to be exempted from quarantine measures, Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the Medical Association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases, said in a radio program on Monday.

Mainland Chinese tourists in Hong Kong in a file photo. Photo: AFP

If the measures are going to be loosened after May 7, people from provinces that have lower epidemic risks should be considered first, Leung said, adding that the transmission chain through asymptomatic patients in Hubei province has not been cut off, while imported cases are still seen in Guangdong and Helongjiang provinces. 

Leung said Hong Kong could begin carefully easing social distancing rules as the Covid-19 situation was stabilizing. He said schools could reopen as soon as next month for the first time since the Lunar New Year holiday in January.

“I think schools can resume classes – either morning session or afternoon session but not the whole day of school – at any time after we have the Diploma of Secondary Education exams,” Leung said. “We may consider partial resumption of our schools, step by step.”

Ho Pak-leung, the head of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection, said if Hong Kong lifts its quarantine measures, virus tests should be done on all incoming travelers from the mainland. Ho said the travelers should wait for the rapid test results at the border before they can enter Hong Kong. 

He said he expects some more cases will be reported in Guangdong province after the golden week holidays ended on May 7. Citing the latest test results, he said about one in a thousand people in the Guangdong population are asymptomatic virus carriers. 

On Monday, Hong Kong saw no new infections for a second day with the number of infections stayed at 1,037. Over the past week, a total of 12 cases were recorded, all having a travel history.

A woman wears a face mask as she burns incense and prays at the Wong Tai Sin Temple to mark the Lunar New Year in Hong Kong, January 24, 2020. Photo: AFP/ Philip Fong

Since last week, more people have been going to shop and dine as the city’s epidemic situation improved. There have also been more people using public transport.

MTR passengers transit in North Point station at 10:45am on April 27, 2020. Photo: Asia Times

On Friday, the seven-day golden week holidays will start. Mainlanders used to travel domestically or overseas during the holidays. Media experts said the current round of social distancing and quarantine measures should not be loosened before they expire on May 7.

On Sunday, the mainland reported three new coronavirus cases, two of which were imported, as well as 25 new asymptomatic cases.

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