LCQ20: Preparatory work for resumption of normal traveller clearance between Mainland and Hong Kong

     Following is a question by Dr the Hon Tan Yueheng and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Tang Ping-keung, in the Legislative Council today (January 11):
     Regarding the preparatory work for the resumption of normal traveller clearance between the Mainland and Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that quarantine-free travel between the Mainland and Hong Kong is being resumed gradually and the Lunar New Year is around the corner, whether the Government has redeployed the manpower at various boundary control points, evaluated the capacities of various boundary control points when normal traveller clearance is resumed, and formulated corresponding measures to cope with the surge in traveller flow at boundary control points in the short term, thereby ensuring orderly travel; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(2) given that the Mainland requires arrivals to undergo nucleic acid tests within 48 hours before their departure, and only those with negative test results are allowed entry, whether the relevant government departments have assessed if the current testing capacity in Hong Kong can meet the anticipated increase in the demand for testing, and whether measures are in place to raise the nucleic acid testing efficiency of eligible medical testing institutions in Hong Kong; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on January 5, 2023 announced that, with the consensus reached after deliberation and co-ordination with the Central Government, the Guangdong Provincial Government and the Shenzhen Municipal Government, and upon obtaining approval from the Central Government, the normal travel of persons between Hong Kong and the Mainland has resumed in phases starting January 8. The aim is to resume normal travel with the Mainland in a progressive, orderly and comprehensive manner. For details, please refer to the press release in Annex 1.
     As at January 9, 2023, 483 655 persons have made bookings for travelling to the Mainland through various control points via the online system launched by the HKSAR Government. On the first two days (January 8 and 9) upon resumption of normal travel, a total of 43 563 persons departed Hong Kong for the Mainland (including both those with bookings and those not required to make bookings) via the Shenzhen Bay, Man Kam To and Lok Ma Chau Spur Line/Futian Control Points, while a total of 19 696 persons entered Hong Kong from the Mainland via the said control points. The operations at the relevant control points were generally smooth.
     According to the bookings made via the abovementioned online system, we anticipate the flow of passengers will increase a few days before the Chinese New Year. The Government will keep in view the situation closely and ensure that the control points would continue to operate orderly during the festive peak period.
     Having consulted relevant departments and the Health Bureau, my reply to the question is as follows:
(1) The Security Bureau (SB) led the disciplined services to conduct drills at Man Kam To, Lok Ma Chau Spur Line/Futian and Shenzhen Bay Control Points on January 5 to ensure smooth operation of the control points at the initial stage of the resumption of normal travel with the Mainland. For details, please refer to the press release in Annex 2.
     The relevant departments have put in place relevant measures. For instance, the Immigration Department (ImmD) flexibly deployed some of the officers from the control points to perform various anti-epidemic work during the pandemic. To meet the immigration clearance workload after the resumption of normal travel, the ImmD has re-deployed the manpower, drawn up contingency plans, as well as conducted large-scale drills at control points to test the overall responsiveness and coordination of the frontline staff for the resumption of normal travel. The ImmD will continue to re-deploy manpower as necessary to ensure the smooth operation of control points based on the actual circumstances, particularly during the festive time.
     The Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) has made preparatory work at control points to ensure its hardware and software resources are in place for the resumption of normal travel, including cleaning and checking the clearance facilities and areas in control points, as well as testing system and inspecting equipment (such as X-ray system) to ensure normal operation. For manpower, the C&ED has re-deployed officers assigned with anti-epidemic work and other tasks during the pandemic back to the control points in full. The C&ED has also arranged practice, training and drill exercises for staff specifically for passenger clearance. the C&ED will continue to ensure the smooth operation and efficient clearance services for passengers.
     The Police has all along been deploying police resources based on operational needs to ensure the orderly arrangements for the resumption of normal travel. The relevant police districts have reviewed their manpower and made corresponding arrangements to ensure sufficient manpower at control points to discharge relevant duties. The Police has also taken part in drills according to operational needs to ensure the smooth resumption of normal travel. In view of the actual arrangements and operational needs, the Police will continue to timely deploy additional manpower to support the policing work at control points, such as crowd control, traffic management, contingency response and more.
(2) The Government had a series of measures in place to enhance the community testing service since the middle of last year. All community testing service contractors were also reminded to get well-prepared for providing nucleic acid tests required in relation to the resumption of normal travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland. The Government has set up more than 80 community testing centres/community testing stations (CTC/CTSs) in various districts across the city. These CTC/CTSs provide self-paid nucleic acid testing service and issue test result reports for travel and other purposes, including for travelling to the Mainland. Aside from handling the high-risk groups that are still subject to nucleic acid testing on a regular basis, the Government estimated that CTCs/CTSs still have sufficient quotas and capacity to cope with over 100 000 self-paid tests per day at the initial stage of the resumption of normal travel. As at January 9, 2023, on average there are over 100 000 online booking quotas per day for self-paid nucleic acid tests in the next seven days, which shows that there is sufficient service capacity. The Government will closely monitor the usage of testing service and make adjustments if necessary.

Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Issued at HKT 16:45