COVID-19 isolation may be maintained in Hong Kong until 2024, posing a risk of exodus: Chamber of Europe

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HONG KONG, CHINA: Because of its strict COVID-19 restrictions, Hong Kong may only reopen in early 2024, putting the city’s reputation as a financial centre in jeopardy, according to a draft study from the city’s European Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber claimed in a draft that was accessed by Reuters but not made public that the low efficiency of domestically created vaccinations is pushing mainland China to retain rigorous travel restrictions.

The European Chamber of Commerce did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

The most likely scenario for Hong Kong is that it will remain closed until China’s mRNA vaccination is implemented across its 1.4 billion population, which could take until late 2023 or early 2024, according to the report.

If this is the case, the chamber warns that a “cascade effect” of corporations leaving the Asian financial center could occur.

“We expect a large-scale exodus of foreigners, maybe the greatest ever seen in Hong Kong, and one of the largest in absolute terms from any city in the area in recent history,” it stated.

In January, Hong Kong saw an outbreak of diseases that officials have been unable to contain.

Multinational companies would progressively relocate China-focused teams to the mainland or shift their Asian regional teams to Singapore or Seoul, according to the chamber.

Hong Kong’s appeal as an international corporate hub, as well as its ability to contribute to China’s economy, could be jeopardized.

The loss of international talent could jeopardize the city’s “ability to maintain world-class universities,” according to the report.

SHORTER QUARANTINE, FASTER VACCINES

Hong Kong, unlike the mainland, is reliant on business travelers and imported commodities.

Tough flying limitations have severely limited its function as one of the world’s principal transhipment and passenger hubs, allowing just a small number of people to land and a small number to transit.

Singapore, on the other hand, has relaxed its coronavirus restrictions, including border check.

Only over 70% of Hong Kong residents have had two vaccinations, compared to 91% of Singapore’s eligible population.

The majority of Hong Kong’s elderly are unvaccinated.

Other “average likelihood” scenarios listed by the chamber include an uncontrolled epidemic on the mainland leading to Hong Kong locking its border with China and reopening its borders to the rest of the globe.

Another scenario would be an uncontrollable breakout in Hong Kong, rendering any extra limitations useless. Up to 20,000 elderly people could die as a result of this.

The chamber recommended to the government that immunizations be accelerated and quarantine be reduced from 21 days to seven to 14 days, which would suit the international business community.

Foreign companies should anticipate Hong Kong being “semi-closed for international travel in the next 12-36 months.” It stated that talent is “a precious commodity,” and that keeping it would be “a difficult task.”

ٍSource: Reuters

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