Hong Kong health authorities will issue travelers a QR code that certifies they are virus-free, allowing them to visit Macau and Guangdong province as the epidemic wanes in the region.
The health codes will exempt travelers from undergoing quarantine when they cross the border, a source told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) in a report published Monday. The government is expected to announce detailed plans in the coming weeks.
Limited travel has already restarted between Macau and the neighbouring Chinese city of Zhuhai—since last month, authorities in both places have mutually recognized each other’s health codes. The codes represent a person’s level of risks based on their health status, possible contact with COVID-19 patients and travel history.
The arrangements in Hong Kong will effectively create a “travel bubble” that includes Macau and Guangdong province, where the coronavirus appears to have eased significantly. The last time Macau confirmed a new COVID-19 case was March 28, and just five cases in Guangdong have been reported in the past two weeks.
According to the source that spoke with the SCMP, anyone applying for a QR health code will first have to undergo a COVID-19 test. The results will be available within 24 hours—if negative, the person will be eligible to apply for the code, which will be valid for around seven days. The code can be shown from the person’s smartphone when crossing the border.
The health code will reportedly not implicate the transfer of any personal data. The Hong Kong government is expected to announce details of the new arrangements in the coming days.
Global travel has largely ground to a halt over the past few months as COVID-19 continues to ravage parts of the world.
Hong Kong saw only 4,125 visitors last month—a 99.9% drop from the year before, when almost 5.6 million travelers arrived in the city in April 2019. Planes sit parked on unused runways at the Hong Kong International Airport, a major transit hub that is one of the busiest airports globally.
Since Feb. 8, all arrivals from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan have been required to complete a 14-day quarantine before setting foot in the city. In March, the travel restrictions were expanded to include almost all arrivals from anywhere in the world.
Last month, the Trade and Industry Department has allowed businessmen with operations in mainland China to apply for an exemption that allows them to cross the border to Guangdong without completing a 14-day quarantine.
Three new COVID-19 cases—all local—were reported on Monday, bringing the city’s total to 1,087.