The Chief Executive’s announcement last month of a cut in mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals was a major step in the right direction. Three days is certainly much better than seven, and a huge improvement on the three weeks that many businesspeople had to endure after arriving in the city previously.
Three days is easier to bear from a mental health perspective as well as being less of a financial burden. Moreover, for Hong Kong employees who are not able to work remotely, the shorter hotel stay also means they can get back to the office sooner.
The “yellow code” restrictions for the following four days should not be too difficult to bear for residents as they will still be able to go to work, to shops and use public transport.
For our broader economy, however, three days of hotel quarantine is still a major impediment to stimulate recovery. Businesspeople are unlikely to want to travel here for meetings or events while restrictions remain in force. The long-suffering tourism sector is also unlikely to see any benefit. Travellers usually come to Hong Kong for a relatively short visit. So three days in a hotel room, followed by four days where they cannot go to a restaurant or bar is not appealing when they can travel to almost all other countries quarantine free.
The impact of the restrictions on the city’s economy has been severe. The Chamber last month revised down our 2022 economic forecast to -0.5%, from our February estimate of 1.2%. The city also suffered its second quarter in a row of negative growth.
It is clear that reopening our international borders is crucial for our economic recovery, and to stem the departure of talent. More than 90% of members that responded to a recent Chamber survey said that they favoured quarantine-free entry for visitors – so long as they are fully vaccinated and test negative for Covid. You can read more about our survey on p22.
Hong Kong is not alone in having a gloomy economic outlook at the present time. But Hong Kong’s situation is being exacerbated by the continuation of Covid-era policies, which have allowed our competitors to race ahead as they return to normal.
The Financial Secretary plans to host a summit for financial leaders in early November, at the same time as the Rugby Sevens. This would be a good target date for the removal of quarantine and other social-distancing requirements, to enable global executives and sports fans alike to travel to Hong Kong.
It would also be the perfect opportunity to relaunch the city. If the finance summit and the Rugby Sevens can take place without restrictions, it would send the clear message to the world that Hong Kong is back to business.