Editorial:Despite end of caseless run, the opening of border should remain the goal

【明報專訊】Yesterday (July 11) Hong Kong logged a new local confirmed COVID-19 case of unknown origin, meaning that its caseless streak, this time a 35-day one, has been broken again and the hope of the opening of the border with mainland China may have to be delayed further.

The latest person infected with the COVID-19 virus is an airport porter. How he got infected and the genomic sequence of the virus need to be further investigated. Although the person does not know and did not come into contact with the airport ground staffer infected on June 27, the airport is, after all, an inevitable corridor for imported cases, and it is impossible to avoid all related circumstantial risks. Questions such as how anti-pandemic measures should be strengthened and whether airport staff should be required to get vaccinated as soon as possible should not be taken lightly. After 35 days of no local confirmed cases, a new one has emerged. Compulsory quarantine of the close contacts of those infected and compulsory virus tests for citizens who have been at the same public venue during the same period of time with the confirmed patient are established procedures that are believed to be able to break the chains of community transmission in the quickest way. But after all, they bring worries about a new wave of infections.

It is believed that the recurrence of local infections, the source of which is still unknown, will affect the negotiations between Hong Kong and the mainland on the reopening of the border. However, outsiders will not know how much impact this will have. They cannot conjecture what conditions have been proposed by the Guangdong authorities for the reopening of the border with Hong Kong, but there are two points worth noting. First, the latest outbreak in Guangzhou has affected areas including Foshan, Shenzhen and Dongguan and has led to more than 160 cases in total. Guangdong's measures to deal with the pandemic have been unprecedentedly stringent, and through the adoption of accurate measures the province has completely controlled the outbreak within only one month. This ''Guangdong doctrine'' is a textbook example of successful anti-pandemic control and such hard-won results will be very much treasured by the Guangdong authorities, who will not easily let any potential risks go unaddressed. The reopening of the border with Hong Kong does pose certain risks. On the other hand, Hong Kong has its own set of pandemic restrictions for foreign tourists. For example, if passengers from Australia and New Zealand are vaccinated, the compulsory quarantine period will be reduced from 14 days to seven days. Although Hong Kong's decision was made after rigorous scientific evaluation, Guangdong Province may not know the basis of the decision and its possible ramifications, and might thus be sceptical about it.

Although another local confirmed case has appeared and that might add another hurdle in reopening our border with mainland China, we must take the initiative and try every means to overcome this obstacle, however difficult it might be. The SAR government can write a report to the central government and present its request, but at the same time it must strengthen communication with Guangdong Province so that the two sides can understand each other's concerns and thoughts. Similarly, the Guangdong authorities should also increase transparency and put forward clear conditions for the reopening of the border. Both parties should find common ground so that Guangdong and Hong Kong can work towards the same goal and achieve the reopening of the border as soon as possible. Otherwise, Guangdong's and Hong Kong's development, as well as that of the Greater Bay Area and other major national strategies, will be out of the question.

明報社評 2021.07.12:清零紀錄斷纜 通關仍是目標





■/ Glossary 生字 /

recurrence /rɪˈkʌrəns/

if there is a recurrence of sth, it happens again

stringent /ˈstrɪndʒənt/

very strict and that must be obeyed

out of the question:impossible or not allowed and therefore not worth discussing


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