The announcement comes after three years of border controls that have isolated the financial center and mainland China.

China announced it will open its border with Hong Kong on Sunday, ending three years of pandemic restrictions that have isolated the financial center from mainland China.

Hong Kong residents traveling to mainland China will no longer be required to quarantine or take a COVID-19 test after arriving as part of steps to resume cross-border travel in a “gradual and orderly” manner, reports China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said in a statement Thursday.

Visitors must still provide a negative COVID test result from the past 48 hours prior to departure and complete a health declaration.

China will also continue to issue travel and business visas for mainland residents to travel to Hong Kong.

According to government data, more than 236 million trips were made across the border before the pandemic.

The moves come after Beijing said it would reopen international borders and lift mandatory quarantine from January 8.

The announcement is China’s latest move to unwind its controversial “zero COVID” policy, which has been credited with saving lives but came with debilitating social and economic costs.

Hong Kong, which followed a less strict version of its “zero COVID” strategy for much of the pandemic, dropped most of its restrictions in December, though masks are still mandatory in most environments.

The number of COVID infections in China has soared in recent weeks after the lifting of strict restrictions such as lockdowns and mandatory quarantine. Health authorities have reported only a handful of deaths, despite evidence from hospitals, morgues and crematoria that the number of fatalities has risen sharply across the country. Some health experts have predicted that the country could experience up to two million deaths due to the population’s lack of natural immunity and patchy vaccination coverage among the elderly.

Countries such as France, India, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States have introduced COVID testing and other measures for travelers from China amid concerns that rising cases could lead to the emergence of new and more dangerous variants .

China has criticized the measures so much “unacceptable” and without scientific basis.

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