Passengers enter Hong Kong's West Kowloon Station as cross-boundary high-speed rail services linking the SAR and the Chinese mainland resumed on Jan 15, 2023. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government is seeking to allow about 20,000 cross-boundary students to return to Hong Kong for face-to-face classes, without them taking up places allotted to the daily quota limit for cross-border travel, on Feb 1 at the earliest, Secretary for Education Choi Yuk-lin said on Wednesday.
Persons accompanying the students may also be exempted from the daily quota restrictions, Choi said during a lunch meeting with the media.
From Wednesday to Saturday, in the build-up to Lunar New Year, which starts on Sunday, the quota for land boundary control points will be further increased to 65,000 a day
Since Jan 8, 60,000 people per day have been allowed to travel to and from Hong Kong and the mainland via seven control points without having to undergo a period in quarantine. They are still required to provide a negative polymerase chain reactions (PCR) COVID-19 test result taken within 48 hours before crossing the border.
READ MORE: Cross-boundary digital data transfer to lift HK's hub status
From Wednesday to Saturday, in the build-up to Lunar New Year, which starts on Sunday, the quota for land boundary control points will be further increased to 65,000 a day.
In late December, the Education Bureau announced that all secondary schools will resume full-day face-to-face classes from Feb 1. Full-day in-person classes will also be resumed in primary schools and kindergartens from Feb 15.
Choi said the government is working to allow cross-border students to provide rapid antigen test results in place of PCR test results, to make their trips more convenient.
She expects about 7,500 secondary students and nearly 13,000 primary school and kindergarten students to return to Hong Kong after the Lunar New Year.
In addition, Choi is negotiating with relevant mainland departments to open more border checkpoints to facilitate cross-boundary students traveling between Hong Kong and the mainland.
READ MORE: HK, Shenzhen to discuss special cross-border policy in HSITP
School bus services for cross-border school children might not be operational by Feb 1, but the government will try to ensure services are resumed by mid-February, Choi said.
The government will collect data from schools to count the number of students using various checkpoints, then arrange to have vehicles at different ports based on the reported numbers, Choi said.
Lawmaker Lillian Kwok Ling-lai said she welcomes the facilitation arrangements. She suggested that the government should strengthen its support for students returning to campus, such as by updating guidelines on the anti-pandemic measures in schools and providing more mental health counseling.