Hong Kong faces a difficult balancing act as the city aims to lift some border restrictions on international travelers starting next month, according to a government official.
the chinese territory intends to ease travel ban on flights from nine countriesincluding the US, UK and Australia, and allowing those travelers to quarantine in a hotel for seven days instead of 14. The changes will take effect on April 1.
“It’s very important that we have to serve the needs of international businessmen, but equally we also have a very large population in Hong Kong that needs the relaxation of the border restriction with mainland China, because that is also a very important part of Hong Kong for family gatherings and business as well,” Bernard Chan, coordinator of the Executive Council, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.
“So it’s a very difficult balancing act,” he said, especially since China continues to see pockets of Covid outbreaks.
Hong Kong Executive Council it is a cabinet-like body that advises the city’s chief executive officer.
China has been battling its worst Covid outbreak since early 2020, with local governments blaming the new BA.2 omicron variant for the current wave sweeping across the country. The big city Carry off A two-stage shutdown began Monday.
Hong Kong has firmly adhered to a “dynamic zero” coronavirus policy, like mainland China, which seeks to stamp out all outbreaks with sweeping restrictions and quarantine.
The city reported 7,685 new Covid infections and 168 deaths on Monday, according to official dataas the latest wave of omicron infections continues to decline.
Between March 22 and 28, a average of 4,217.4 cases per day were reported, down from the average of 8,704.4 cases per day reported in the previous 7-day period, according to government data.
Still, Hong Kong lags behind regional peers, especially rival financial hub Singapore, which said Last Thursday will lift almost all border restrictions for vaccinated travelers starting next month.
“As the rest of the world opens up, we must try to find a way out,” Chan said. “As of April 1, we start reducing the hotel quarantine time from 14 days to 7 days. It’s obviously not good enough, but it’s still a huge improvement,” he added.
According to a recent report from the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, The city’s zero covid strategy “has come at a very high cost to the Hong Kong business community”.
The survey found that 49% of companies surveyed said they are considering relocating all or part of their offices in the next 12 months.
In addition, existing restrictions have hampered the corporate strategy or hiring plans of 2 out of 3 companies in Hong Kong, the report added.
Acknowledging that “these are tough times” for Hong Kong, Chan said he is confident the city will regain its status as a global business hub when the pandemic ends.
“I think Covid will end. It’s a question of when he will finish,” he said. “Hong Kong is still very attractive as a hub of the Greater China Bay and China’s economy is still growing. I think people will come back.”