After Beijing removed the arrivals quarantine a week earlier, China on Sunday restored high-speed rail service between Hong Kong and the mainland for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
The re-opening follows last month’s stunning U-turn on the “zero-COVID-19” policy in the wake of unprecedented protests and a day after officials reported almost 60,000 COVID-19 patients had died in hospitals.
Despite the infections, some passengers expressed joy and relief at the prospect of being able to return to their hometowns with greater ease in time for the upcoming Lunar New Year.
Mang Lee, 33, who was among many going through border checks at Hong Kong’s West Kowloon station before boarding trains, said, “The restart of the high-speed railway has made it very simple for us and has brought us closer to home.”
Mang, who hails from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, continued, “For the past three years because of the pandemic, it has not been simple to enter China in any form.” I haven’t been able to return home in a while.
Easier Lunar New Year trips
As hundreds of millions of people return from cities to small towns and rural areas for the upcoming holiday celebrations, which will start on January 21, there has been an increase in travel, which has raised concerns about the possibility of new diseases.
Following widespread criticism of China’s COVID-19 data, the new death toll on Saturday was far higher than earlier estimates. The World Health Organization applauded the action but demanded more comprehensive data.
However, the amount is still below the estimates of global health experts, who stated that China might see more than a million COVID-19-related fatalities this year.
According to Cheung Chi-keung, director of operator MTR Corp.’s cross-boundary operations, operations at West Kowloon station in the international financial center have been seamless, with a flow of roughly 1,400 people by 10 a.m.
A display at the station showed that tickets for practically all trains were sold out on Sunday, according to a Reuters witness.
MTR Chairman Rex Auyeung informed reporters at the station that the reopening will initially only be for short trips; however, it was not immediately apparent when long-haul trips would restart.
The government said on its website that Saturday’s visits to the nearby gambling mecca of Macau exceeded 55,000, the greatest daily numbers since the pandemic started. This is another indication that transportation links are improving.
According to a notice, the mainland contributed $44,025, with slightly over 10,000 coming from Hong Kong.
The figure, which is consistent with a pattern of increasing daily visitor numbers, offers hope for the tourism-focused industry, which has been suffering as a result of the previous zero-COVID-19 restrictions.
Following reports of major hospital shortages, many people in China are rushing to obtain COVID-19 medications. Last week, customs in Hong Kong seized 380 boxes of suspected smuggled COVID-19 medications, with an estimated worth of HK$500,000 ($64,000), according to the local government.
The materials were discovered in two locations: one on January 11 at the international airport in a package arriving by air from India, and the other on January 14 at the residence of a 40-year-old male.
The authorities noted in its announcement on Sunday that the suspects, a man and a 34-year-old woman, had been detained.
COVID-19 medication produced by Pfizer Particularly Paxlovid has experienced high demand.