‘Quarantine putting international community off HK’

An international business group has warned that Hong Kong’s move to enhance quarantine as it attempts to keep out new strains of Covid-19 is leading some to question whether they can continue operating from the SAR at a time when much of the world is opening up travel.

In an open letter to Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Thursday, the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong urged the administration to set out a clear exit strategy from the pandemic, continue to step up its vaccination programme and relax quarantine rules for vaccinated arrivals.

The group’s letter came ahead of the introduction on Friday of tougher quarantine measures for fully vaccinated people from countries considered medium-risk. They’ll now have to spend 14 days in quarantine, up from seven previously.

Speaking on RTHK’s Hong Kong Today programme on Friday, the chamber’s vice-chair, Inaki Amate, said the SAR’s zero-Covid strategy was outdated and created too much uncertainty for international businesses.

“It’s very evident that we need to evolve and open the society by somehow convincing the rest of the society needs to be vaccinated in order to be able to open,” he told RTHK’s Janice Wong.

“The international community is clearly affected because we cannot move, we cannot go anywhere and that’s putting at risk the condition that Hong Kong has today as an international business hub.

“When there is no international community, there is no international business hub.”

Under the rules introduced on Friday, unvaccinated travellers from medium-risk countries must serve 21 days in quarantine. Only fully vaccinated travellers are allowed to fly in from high-risk countries and they must spend 21 days in quarantine.

Setting out details of the new rules on Tuesday, Lam said that the government was following experts’ advice to “err on the side of caution” in light of the Delta coronavirus variant.

Shorter quarantine, of 14 days for unvaccinated travellers and seven days for the fully vaccinated, is only available for countries on the low-risk list. At present, the only country on the list is New Zealand.