The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government's decision to exempt people coming back from the mainland from a mandatory 14-day quarantine in the city has met with a positive response from mainland-based Hong Kong residents who are eager to return home.
The SAR government announced on Tuesday it would start exempting people returning from the mainland from the 14-day quarantine starting in November, with limited quotas to be offered initially.
Currently, people returning to Hong Kong from the mainland need to undergo 28 days of mandatory quarantine, half in Shenzhen and half in Hong Kong. Those without residence in either of the two cities need to be quarantined in hotels at their own expense.
Fung Wing-cheong, deputy director of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions' Shenzhen consulting service center, said the policy especially helps people who urgently need to go back to Hong Kong, for example to receive medical treatment and address financial or tax problems.
The center, which is one of Shenzhen's major organizations serving mainland-based Hong Kong people, has received a great deal of feedback from people about the policy since it was announced, according to Fung.
Fung said most of their feedback was positive, as the policy has partly responded to their calls, and will greatly reduce the burden, both financially and in terms of time, that Hong Kong people currently face when they want to go back home.
Ko Shing-chu, a 75-year-old Hong Kong resident in Shenzhen, said he was happy to see the development, as it offers him the opportunity to seek medical consultation and get medicines in Hong Kong.
Yet he noted that the 14-day quarantine arrangement in Shenzhen is still troublesome and remains a financial burden, so he would not return to Hong Kong until he can cross the boundary with no restrictions.
Hong Kong respiratory specialist Leung Chi-chiu said the time is right to launch the exemption arrangement, as the COVID-19 infection risk in most mainland areas is less than in the HKSAR.
To minimize the risk to Hong Kong, he suggested the authorities require arrivals to submit health certificates confirming they had not visited any high-risk areas in the past 14 days. According to the government's current plan, they only need to submit negative nucleic acid test results.