Hong Kong has released executives from virus quarantine rules

Hong Kong has released senior executives and directors of some listed companies from harsh quarantine rules at its border, prompting calls by business groups to expand measures to other sectors. .

Banks, insurers and asset managers licensed by Hong Kong financial regulators can each apply for two senior employees to visit and two to return to town each month without having to be quarantined if vaccinated and traveling “for business purposes”.

Directors of major Hong Kong stock exchange index companies can also apply for quarantine exemption if their travel plans are “essential to the operation” of the business. The new rules, some of which were posted on the Hong Kong government’s website on Friday, are effective immediately.

The decision was followed by concerns that Hong Kong was opening up more slowly than other business hubs due to strict quarantine policy and vaccination rates are much shorter in London, New York and Singapore. The financial services sector accounts for more than 21 per cent of the gross domestic product in the territory.

Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, said: “This is a good development and one that we think should be nurtured in the sectors.”

But many banks have warned that they are still seeking clarification on the details of the application process, including what it means to be a “senior executive”, and how they can protect staff from returning employees. traveling without money.

“Hong Kong is isolated from the rest of the financial world and now we are gone,” said an executive at a Wall Street bank.

An executive at the U.S. second bank said the exemption seemed like a “special 1 per cent treatment”, but it allowed Hong Kong to maintain its status as an international financial center.

But Frederik Gollob, head of the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, said the government should “exceed the importance” of this step because it shows that the city’s quarantine requirements contribute to the influx of talent. .

“There is growing frustration with this de facto lockdown,” Gollob said, adding that businesses want a broader respite from bans for vaccinated travelers. “The government has not connected with vaccination campaign in a clear opening strategy as well. ”

HSBC said the exemption for bankers “will stimulate a lot of economic activity in many sectors. Maintaining public health and allowing business travel to gradually return to normal can go hand in hand. ”

Travelers from eight countries “at risk” including the UK, India and Brazil – and almost all without short trips – have to be quarantined at a hotel within 21 days of arrival in Hong Kong. Vaccinated people arriving from elsewhere were subjected to a 14 -day quarantine at the hotel, with the exception of those from Australia and New Zealand, which had to be quarantined for seven days.

Hong Kong’s world banks had talks with Asifma, the Asian capital market industry, about lobbying the government for exemptions from travel quarantine rules at the end of last year. Some expressed fears that the laws could damage the territory’s position as a world financial center.

Concerns have increased as vaccination rates remain low in the city. Only 15 per cent of Hong Kong’s population is fully vaccinated, compared to 28 per cent in Singapore, 27 per cent in London and 43 per cent in New York City.

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