Lobby group urges Hong Kong to rethink zero-COVID policy that threatens to cripple its status as financial hub
10/28/2021 // Zoey Sky // Views

To curb the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Hong Kong’s government enforced a zero-COVID policy and tightened travel restrictions for international travelers. However, the largest financial lobby group in Asia warned that the restrictive policy may put the city’s status as a financial hub at risk.

The Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA) sent an open letter to Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan. The association wrote that a survey of members, including BlackRock and Goldman Sachs, revealed that 48 percent were thinking of relocating staff or functions out of the city due to operational challenges.

Because of the "ongoing travel restrictions, a zero-COVID policy in place and limited detail on an exit strategy from these policies," ASIFMA wrote that Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center (IFC) may be at risk. The association added that the city's long-term economic recovery and competitiveness as a renowned place to do business hang in the balance.

To date, Hong Kong has some of the most draconian travel restrictions in the world. It also currently has no public plan for opening up to international travelers.

Earlier in October, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that even one coronavirus death would be a "major concern" for the city.

ASIFMA's letter also detailed several suggestions, such as publishing a comprehensive roadmap for exiting Hong Kong’s "zero-case" based COVID-19 strategy instead of just focusing on opening borders with China and prioritizing getting more people vaccinated against coronavirus. (Related: New Zealand transforms into a tyrannical regime in pursuit of “COVID Zero.”)


Mark Austen, chief executive of ASIFMA, explained that some of the challenges include the ambiguity of when and how the travel and quarantine restrictions will be lifted in the city. Austen suggested that the Hong Kong government should phase out travel restrictions. He added that it was also crucial to eventually accept that the city will have to learn how to live with coronavirus.

As the rest of the world moves on, Austen noted that Hong Kong still hasn't provided a plan, which is important to help reassure businesses in the city.

Because of the uncertainty, some firms are moving operations. While only a handful of groups are doing so, Austen advised that more businesses might consider moving out of Hong Kong the longer the city keeps mum about its plans amid the pandemic.

"The government must do its utmost to foster informed dialogue and full consideration of the long-term risks to livelihoods if its borders remain effectively closed, in contrast to competing international financial and business centers," said Austen.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong has reported only 12,300 or so cases. Most of the cases are imported, with 213 deaths.

Lam: Reopening to mainland China is "more important"

On Tuesday, Oct. 26, Hong Kong announced that it will continue to tighten coronavirus travel restrictions to bring it more in line with mainland China.

Most travelers arriving in Hong Kong have to undergo 14 to 21 days of hotel quarantine. The city has extended its streak of over two months without a major local coronavirus outbreak.

Lam said she is currently trying to convince China's leaders to restore travel with the mainland. She also mentioned an upcoming announcement will soon reveal which "quarantine exemptions granted to specific groups of visitors coming from overseas and mainland" will be revoked.

Lam added that cross-border truck drivers and other essential workers are allowed to make quarantine-free trips. As of writing, Hong Kong allows certain groups of people to forego quarantine or isolate at home, including diplomats and business leaders, along with some mainlanders who have Hong Kong resident cards.

Lam previously stated that reopening to the Chinese mainland was "more important" than restoring Hong Kong's international travel links.

On Tuesday, she said that Beijing expects Hong Kong to enforce similar strict restrictions. Hong Kong's business community is tied down because of the restrictions while rival finance hubs like London, New York, Singapore and Tokyo are gradually reopening. Singapore, for instance, is already expanding quarantine-free travel to nearly a dozen countries.

Follow Pandemic.news for more updates on the coronavirus pandemic.

Sources include:





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