Quarantine-free high-speed rail travel between Hong Kong and mainland China will resume today.
It is among the final restrictions on cross-border travel to reopen after three years of pandemic border closures were lifted incrementally this month. China ended its stringent COVID-Zero policies on December 8 and has battled an explosion of cases since then—worsened by low vaccination rates. Beijing has also abandoned compiling official daily statistics, though studies estimate 64% of the country is currently infected.
Although a daily cross-border cap of 60,000 remains, the true test of free movement will come on January 23 when millions of Chinese citizens make the annual Chinese New Year pilgrimage back to their ancestral provinces. The bulk of travel will impact rural areas where infections and death rates are suspected to be highest.
Ahead of the Chinese New Year, the resumption of Hong Kong-mainland travel will almost certainly be met with relief after nationwide protests forced the government’s hand. However, the low vaccination rates across China and the lack of clear statistics—the true death rate is suspected to be exponentially higher than the official tally of 40 since COVID-Zero was lifted—are highly likely to cloud COVID-19’s real impact in the medium term.
John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.