The mainland's epidemic prevention and control expert delegation visits Tin Shui Wai Hospital on Nov 22, 2021 to understand the triage and consultation arrangements in the Accident and Emergency Department. (PHOTO / HKSAR GOVERNMENT)
The visit of a delegation of Chinese mainland health experts to Hong Kong will help pave the way for quarantine-free travel between the special administrative region and the mainland, medical experts said on Monday.
On Saturday, a delegation organized by the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council and the National Health Commission arrived in Hong Kong for a four-day visit to check local anti-pandemic measures.
The visit is expected to bring more exchanges on anti-pandemic measures, especially those aimed at reducing the risk of importing COVID-19 cases via the airport, said Doctor Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Medical Association's advisory committee on communicable diseases
They met with local officials and experts, and inspected major facilities related to anti-pandemic work, including ports, healthcare facilities, quarantine centers and contact tracing offices.
Their visit came after Hong Kong media reported that the border will be reopened with a limited quota next month, and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said that she hopes to see large-scale travel resume in February.
Doctor Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Medical Association's advisory committee on communicable diseases, said the visit is a huge step toward the resumption of quarantine-free cross-border travel, which he believed is the common expectation of the public.
The visit is expected to deepen mutual understanding of the pandemic prevention policies of Hong Kong and the mainland and bring more comprehensive exchanges on anti-pandemic measures, especially those aimed at reducing the risk of importing COVID-19 cases via the airport, Leung said.
Noting the serious threat from the COVID-19 Delta variant and the recent confirmed cases among airline cargo crews, Leung said the delegation's visit to the Hong Kong International Airport was of great importance, as the border control measures at the transportation hub were a key factor affecting the resumption of cross-border travel.
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The mainland's epidemic prevention and control expert delegation visits a designated quarantine hotel in Wanchai on Nov 22, 2021. (PHOTO / HKSAR GOVERNMENT)
Surgeon Kelvin Wong Kiu-fung, who facilitated the city's Universal Community Testing Program in September last year, said the delegation's visit had helped accelerate the negotiation process and find a practical plan for the resumption of quarantine-free travel.
"The in-depth communication and experience sharing between the experts will help ensure stable control of the epidemic situation in Hong Kong and the mainland once the resumption is realized," Wong added.
Surgeon Kelvin Wong Kiu-fung, who facilitated the city's Universal Community Testing Program in September last year, said the delegation's visit had helped accelerate the negotiation process and find a practical plan for the resumption of quarantine-free travel
Wong said that Hong Kong can also learn more from the mainland's health code system to improve its self-developed LeaveHomeSafe mobile application for tracking confirmed cases.
Radiologist Kevin Lau Chung-hang, who is also medical director of a company providing healthcare services, said he believes that mainland experts will provide practical advice in terms of advancing mutual recognition of health code systems, and dealing with possible pandemic resurgence after travel resumes.
To pursue gradual resumption of quarantine-free travel, experts and officials from Hong Kong and the mainland held video conferences in September and this month.
The visit of the mainland delegation is an important follow-up to the two video conferences, Hong Kong Chief Secretary for Administration John Lee Ka-chiu said in a Saturday meeting with the experts.
The SAR government will continue to guard against the importation of cases and the resurgence of local infections to foster favorable conditions for quarantine-free cross-border travel, Lee said.
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Tam Yiu-chung, a Hong Kong member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, said on Sunday that he will be able to attend its meeting in Beijing next month, which he believed was a positive sign for the resumption of quarantine-free cross-border travel. Due to pandemic concerns and tight controls on cross-border travel, he was unable to attend the meeting in October.