Customs officers and detector dogs prepare for the customs clearance drill at the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point in Hong Kong on Jan 6, 2023. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

HONG KONG – Hundreds of thousands of people in the Hong Kong special administrative region and the Chinese mainland booked cross-border travel as the quarantine-free arrangement resumes on Sunday, taking up quotas in the online booking systems recently launched by authorities on both sides.

Starting Sunday, 60,000 people a day will be allowed to travel each way between Hong Kong and the mainland via seven border ports.

The passengers will not be subject to quarantine, but need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 48 hours.

From 9 am on Friday, mainland residents were able to make reservations for entering Hong Kong through an online booking system operated by the Shenzhen authority. Each reservation can include up to four travel companions.

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Separately at 6 pm on Thursday, Hong Kong opened its booking system for residents entering the mainland. More than 340,000 people had booked their travel in the first 24 hours.

Also from Sunday, cross-border goods vehicle drivers can enter the mainland with a declaration of a 48-hour negative nucleic acid test result

To meet the demand of Hong Kong passengers to get to the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point, one of seven checkpoints for crossborder services, Hong Kong’s rail operator MTR Corp said that the East Rail Line, which links Admiralty in the heart of Hong Kong Island and Lok Ma Chau station, will run 135 trains every day, or one every four to eight minutes. 

The Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point will open on Sunday for the first time since February 2020, as will the convenience stores and exchange shops around the building. 

During the pandemic, the Lok Ma Chau–bound East Rail Line stopped at the second-to-last station, Sheung Shui.

Also from Sunday, cross-border goods vehicle drivers can enter the mainland with a declaration of a 48-hour negative nucleic acid test result. The COVID-19 tests at the border control points and reservation system have been canceled.

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Cross-border ferry operator Chu Kong Shipping announced on Friday it will arrange two round-trip journeys between Hong Kong’s Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal and Shenzhen’s Shekou Port, and three round-trip journeys between Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal and Shenzhen Airport Fuyong Terminal, before it gradually resumes other routes.

Hailing the normal cross-border travel resumption, Secretary for the Civil Service Ingrid Yeung Ho Poiyan said that the Civil Service College — a government organization that was set up a year ago to enhance the training of civil servants — will plan training courses, inspection tours and other exchange activities on the mainland in the coming year.

Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, secretary for culture, sports and tourism, said that the Hong Kong Tourism Board has been stepping up publicity and promotional efforts on the mainland and elsewhere in a bid to promote the recovery of the tourism industry.

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