March 24, 2021

Hong Kong Dashes Business Leaders’ Hopes for Looser Covid Rules

Policy makers reiterated a target of vaccinating 50% of the population before any major loosening…

Photographer: Chan Long Hei/Bloomberg

Hong Kong’s government has dashed business leaders’ hopes for a near-term easing of the city’s Covid quarantine measures, signaling in a private meeting that any relaxation would require a dramatically higher vaccination rate and prolonged drop in local cases.

Policy makers led by Chief Secretary of Administration Matthew Cheung reiterated a target of vaccinating 50% of the population before any major loosening, according to a person who attended the virtual meeting with representatives of the business community on Friday. As of Monday, about 5% of the financial hub’s residents had received their first vaccine shots.

Policy makers also downplayed prospects for travel bubbles or a reopening of the border with China any time soon, two people said. The government didn’t offer a clear road-map for reopening despite requests to do so from multiple business groups, the people said.

Hong Kong wants prolonged drop in cases before easing curbs

The comments suggest Hong Kong’s leaders will continue to pursue a cautious approach, even as Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday she’ll “personally look into” whether it would be possible to reduce the mandatory 21-day quarantine for vaccinated residents returning to the territory.

Hong Kong’s strict rules have arguably proved successful in containing its total recorded Covid cases at around 11,400, far fewer than in other major financial hubs. But some in the banking and business communities have expressed frustration with the rules, especially after an outbreak this month forced several companies to shut offices and left some employees and their children stuck in government quarantine facilities.