| 1 December 2021, Wednesday |

Hong Kong’s zero-COVID policy undermining financial hub status – industry group

A Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA) warned on Monday that Hong Kong’s zero-COVID policy and strict isolation requirements for international travelers threatens to undermine the city’s status as a financial hub.

The ASIFMA said a survey of members, including some of the world’s largest banks and asset managers, showed 48% were contemplating moving staff or functions away from Hong Kong due to operational challenges, which included uncertainty regarding when and how travel and quarantine restrictions will be lifted.

Hong Kong has some of the most severe travel restrictions in the world and is virtually COVID-19 free, however unlike regional rival Singapore, which is slowly re-opening its borders, the Chinese-ruled city has no public plan for opening up to international travelers.

Local leaders say their emphasis is removing restrictions on travel from Hong Kong to mainland China, which also has strict entry restrictions. At present travelers from Hong Kong to the mainland must still undergo quarantine.

“Hong Kong’s status as an (international financial centre) is progressively at risk along with its long-term economic recovery and competitiveness as a premier place to do business,” Mark Austen chief executive of Asifma wrote in open letter to Hong Kong’s financial secretary Paul Chan.

The letter made a series of recommendations including publishing “a roadmap for exiting Hong Kong’s ‘zero-case’ based COVID-19 strategy beyond solely the immediate goal of opening borders with China”, as well as prioritizing vaccinations.

Hong Kong has reported just over 12,300 cases since the start of the pandemic, mostly imported, and 213 deaths.