ug环球360:Hong Kong businesses push for full reopening

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HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s dismantling of hotel quarantine for arrivals is being met by calls for the city to remove remaining travel restrictions to help bolster its fortunes as an international financial hub.

While business groups and analysts welcomed the move, they said the government needs to provide a clear roadmap to reopen fully.

Almost three years of pandemic restrictions have devastated Hong Kong’s economy and pushed residents and businesses to move overseas.

Underscoring the urgency, a report showed Singapore had overtaken the city to become Asia’s top financial centre.

Travellers to Hong Kong no longer need to undergo hotel quarantine or take a PCR test before departure, the city’s leader John Lee announced last Friday.

Instead, arrivals will be restricted from going to bars or eating at restaurants for three days, while they will need to test daily for seven days. If they test positive, they will need to isolate for at least seven days.

“The relaxations are welcome as they represent major improvements,” said Sally Wong, chief executive officer of Hong Kong Investment Funds Association, whose members include both regional firms and some of the world’s largest asset managers, such as BlackRock Inc and FIL Investment Management.

“But we hope that the government can throw light on the last mile, i.e, under what conditions will all restrictions can be removed so that we can be on par with international financial centres?”

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The city’s health minister on Sunday said it was too soon to lift all travel curbs because of the risk of a surge of imported cases that could overwhelm hospitals.

Health secretary Lo Chung Mau told a TV programme that creating “a road map to resume normality” would be hard because of the need to be prepared for possible new variants.

Hong Kong is suffering from an exodus of residents, with its population dropping by the most in at least six decades in the year through June.

In the latest sign of a brain drain, a survey by the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association showed more than a third of fund-management companies moved some or all regional and global roles from the city to other places.

Investors are downbeat too, with the city’s benchmark stock index at a decade-low.

“Hong Kong’s image abroad is at its lowest point,” said Inaki Amate, president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce.

“A comprehensive plan, with incentives, actions and projects to change the overall image but also to attract again all the different audiences will be needed.”

Hong Kong is seeking to show the city is back on the global stage by hosting several high-profile events, including an international banking summit and the iconic Rugby Sevens tournament that are planned for November.

Lee said last Friday there might be “more room” for the government to further ease restrictions, without providing details.

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