AP NEWS TEST SITE
ADVERTISEMENT

Coronavirus: Hong Kong quarantine changes ‘a setback’ and threat to city’s financial hub status, European business chamber warns

August 20, 2021 GMT

European business leaders in Hong Kong have urged authorities to relax strict quarantine requirements for inbound visitors and residents who have been vaccinated against Covid-19, warning a recent rules tightening presents a threat to the city’s status as an international business hub.

The European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong’s push for a reopening to the outside world came just days after the government said it was elevating 15 countries to its “high-risk” category, meaning significantly tougher entry requirements and longer quarantine periods for anyone arriving from those destinations.

ADVERTISEMENT

Countries moving from the medium to high-risk category on Friday are: the United States, France, Malaysia, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Greece, Iran, the Netherlands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania and Turkey.

Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.

Australia will be vaulted from low to medium risk.

The stricter system means travellers from the high-risk countries must be fully vaccinated for at least 14 days before boarding a flight to Hong Kong, then undergo 21 days of quarantine in a designated hotel upon arrival, with four Covid-19 tests during isolation and another on the 26th day after landing.

The tougher requirements followed the case of a domestic worker who had returned to Hong Kong from the US earlier this month. She was later determined to have become infected in a Wan Chai quarantine hotel by a couple staying across the hall who had been on the same flight.

In an open letter to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Thursday, chairman Frederik Gollob said the business community had been grateful for the city’s recent attempt to relax quarantine measures for inbound travellers, calling it “a major step in the right direction.”

“However, the changes to the quarantine requirements announced on Monday present a significant setback,” Gollob said.

Many countries where the virus had recently surged had seen far fewer critical cases and deaths than last year due to their accelerated vaccination programmes, he said.

Their airports were open, and travel across Europe was resuming gradually. Vaccinated individuals could travel for private and business reasons to other destinations with no need for quarantine, he added.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gollob went on to say that concerns raised by the Hong Kong government’s health advisers over isolated instances of positive coronavirus tests after quarantine were “out of proportion” and causing concern within the international community.

“We are of the view that Hong Kong must open itself sooner rather than later, or this new quarantine regime could lead many in the international community to question if they want to remain indefinitely trapped in Hong Kong when the rest of the world is moving on,” Gollob said.

The concerns undoubtedly posed a growing threat to the city’s international business centre status, he added.

The chairman urged the government to create and communicate a clear pandemic exit strategy that would take into account not only local health concerns, but also the overall mental well-being of the entire population, the children and elderly in particular.

Having a strategy in place would provide the basis for restoring confidence and enabling businesses to plan ahead, he explained, adding the city should also step up efforts to inoculate the remaining population and relax all quarantine measures for vaccinated visitors.

Early last month, Gollob was among several business leaders to say Hong Kong was in danger of falling behind as a global financial centre if it persisted with a “zero infections” approach and failed to produce a road map for quarantine-free travel.

He said knew of at least four large businesses that already moved from the city because of the strict rules and that there was imminent danger of Hong Kong losing its edge over other jurisdictions such as Singapore.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.