Children under three years old have to provide a negative Covid-19 PCR test result when entering mainland China, the Hong Kong government said on Tuesday. Community testing centres in the city have begun providing self-paid testing services for children.

However, there is no such requirement for under threes visiting Hong Kong, including from mainland China.

Chief Executive John Lee meeting the press on January 10, 2023
Chief Executive John Lee meeting the press on January 10, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The government’s statement came days after Hong Kong and mainland China resumed quarantine-free travel on Sunday, almost three years after the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.

Travellers crossing the border between Hong Kong and mainland China must obtain a negative result from a PCR test conducted within 48 hours of their arrival.

China scrapped its mandatory quarantine measure as part of a sudden change in its anti-epidemic policies. The country is experiencing an unprecedented wave of infections after close of three years of attempting to maintain a zero-Covid policy.

Since travel restrictions were lifted, the city had seen a bigger outflow of people going to mainland China than visitors coming in.

Covid-19 test
Covid-19 testing booths. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

When asked about the discrepancy in the testing requirement for young children during a weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Chief Executive John Lee said that the administration “will communicate” with mainland authorities on the matter.

There is also a difference regarding what constitutes a negative PCR test result, with Hong Kong imposing a stricter viral load for a negative test than the mainland. As a result, recently recovered Covid patients may be at risk of returning a positive test result despite no longer being infectious.

The city reported 11,641 Covid-19 infections and 64 deaths on Monday. Hong Kong has recorded 2,781,581 infections and 12,406 deaths since the pandemic began around three years ago.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.