A limited daily quota of people will be able to travel quarantine-free from Hong Kong (pictured) to mainland China from “early December”, reports the South China Morning Post newspaper, citing two mainland sources it did not identify.
According to the news outlet, the pilot scheme – likely to operate on a quota system permitting a few hundred people per day quarantine-free access to the mainland – had been brought forward to the first week of next month from an original start date of December 17.
The report suggested the move would coincide by a visit to Hong Kong by medallists from China’s summer Olympics team.
Daily numbers would rise to “a few thousand” in the following months once any initial issues were identified and addressed, and a system of testing and tracking was in place.
The Macau government has said that some form of easing of travel between Hong Kong and the mainland was likely to be a precondition of any inbound quarantine-free travel to Macau from Hong Kong.
A number of investment analysts has said that in pre-pandemic trading times, visitors from Hong Kong accounted for at least 15 percent of Macau’s annual casino gross gaming revenue (GGR).
“The Hong Kong SAR’s reopening to China/Macau is… significant for Macau demand,” said a Friday note from JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd.
Macau’s 2022 GGR might reach approximately “60 percent” of the pre-Covid 19 level seen in 2019 if the city succeeds in easing travel arrangements with Hong Kong, and sees further improvements in movement between mainland China and Macau, suggested Benjamin Toh Hup Hock, chief financial officer at Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd, during a Wednesday panel of an industry event, the 2021 MGS Summit.
For the Hong Kong-mainland pilot scheme, outbound Hong Kong travellers would also have to present a ‘green’ health code issued by the city – indicating a low risk of Covid-19 infection – to be eligible to avoid the 14-day mainland quarantine for those coming via Hong Kong.
Travellers would also be expected to use a contact-tracing app allowing mainland authorities to monitor their movements.
The South China Morning Post said in its Thursday report that what it termed “Beijing insiders” had earlier this month said that a “full border reopening” – i.e. general quarantine-free travel – between Hong Kong and the mainland could happen “before June as part of a three-step process starting in mid-December”.
JP Morgan analysts DS Kim, Amanda Cheng and Livy Lyu stated in their Friday memo: “All this travel easing is likely to kick in gradually next year, starting with a [Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau] Greater Bay [Area] travel bubble in the first quarter.”
This was “already reflected” in market consensus view on the Macau gaming stocks, “but we acknowledge that reopening headlines could still help on sentiment,” added JP Morgan.
Hong Kong already allows some travellers from the mainland to come to the city without serving quarantine.
The “Return2HK” scheme, begun in November last year, first applied to Hong Kong residents returning from Guangdong province and Macau, and was later expanded to other parts of the country.
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