More than 286,000 people have made bookings to visit mainland China from Hong Kong as of Friday morning ahead of the long-awaited resumption of quarantine-free travel on Sunday.

Acting government chief information officer Tony Wong said more than half of the reservations were made within two hours of the launch of an online booking platform at 6 p.m. on Thursday, with some time slots for certain checkpoints already full.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge checkpoint. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Speaking on an RTHK radio show, Wong said the platform was operating “smoothly,” with system errors caused by heavy traffic resolved after an hour.

“There are around a dozen [timeslots for certain checkpoints] that are already full,” Wong said. “But I want to emphasise, different dates and timeslots for the same checkpoints are still available.”

After three years of strict Covid-19 rules, mainland China is reopening its borders this Sunday, allowing visitors to enter without undergoing quarantine.

Hong Kong launched an online booking platform on Thursday for residents to make reservations to enter mainland China, with a daily quota of 60,000. A booking is needed for crossings via four checkpoints – Lok Ma Chau, Shenzhen Bay, Man Kam To and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.

From left: Information officer Tony Wong, health secretary Lo Chung-mau, Chief Secretary Eric Chan, Chief Executive John Lee, security chief Chris Tang, and transport secretary Paul Lam at a press conference about the reopening of Hong Kong’s border checkpoints on January 5, 2022. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Meanwhile, the city will accept up to 50,000 mainland visitors per day via its land ports. Amid a Covid-19 outbreak in the mainland and reports of overwhelmed hospitals, authorities have sought to reassure the public that the influx of travellers will not place undue burden on Hong Kong’s medical systems.

All cross-border travellers must obtain a negative result from a Covid-19 PCR test – both physical or electronic proof will be accepted – taken within 48 hours of travel.

15 timeslots booked out

The online booking platform currently accepts reservations for travel from Sunday to March 4. The platform will refresh with an additional week every Sunday.

There are three time slots – morning, afternoon and night – available for each checkpoint per day.

The booking platform shows afternoon departure from Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge on the days leading up to Chinese New Year booked out. Screenshot: quotabooking.gov.hk.

As of noon on Friday, 15 time slots across the three of the four checkpoints had been fully booked, the online platform showed, with the days leading up to Lunar New Year – which falls on January 22 – most in demand.

For entry via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, afternoon slots from January 18 to January 22 are fully booked, although the morning and night-time slots are still available.

The coming Lunar New Year marks the first since 2021 that cross-border families are able to reunite without undergoing lengthy Covid-19 quarantines. The border between Hong Kong and the mainland was effectively closed in March 2020.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.