‘Downturn will continue if borders remain closed’

The head of the General Chamber of Commerce warned on Sunday that the economic downturn in Hong Kong may continue unless the city can reopen its borders soon, and this is only possible if enough people are vaccinated against Covid-19.

Speaking on a radio programme, the Chamber’s CEO George Leung said Hong Kong is a small and externally oriented economy, and it will suffer more than other cities if its borders remain closed and normal business activities can’t resume.

Leung said there has been a slight improvement in employment situation recently, but this is only because the trade sector was benefiting from China’s economic recovery.

He said many domestic businesses are still suffering.

“The unemployment remains pretty high in the construction sector, the retail, accommodation and transport sectors. The unemployment is still talking about eight to 10 percent. We haven’t seen any sharp improvement in those areas. So if it’s not possible to open the borders soon, I think unemployment will continue to stay at such a high level,” he said.

Leung said reaching herd immunity against Covid-19 is “the only way out” for Hong Kong, and he believes lucky draws launched by the Chamber and many organisations and companies will help boost vaccination in the city.

“We hope that the prizes can attract people to do the vaccination. I think it takes a while for people to heat it up to reach a certain [vaccination]level. We still have a few months to go. And I hope more people, if their health conditions allow it, please take this opportunity to do the vaccination,” he said.

So far, less than 30 percent of the population have had the first coronavirus jab.