Hong Kong exempts financial executives from strict coronavirus quarantine rules

Hong Kong has exempted chief financial executives and managers of some listed companies from harsh quarantine rules at the border, prompting business groups to expand the measures to other sectors.

Banks, insurance companies and asset managers authorized by Hong Kong’s financial regulators can apply to visit two senior staff and two to return to the city per month without the need for quarantine if they have been vaccinated and travel “for business”.

Managers of large companies in the main indexes of the Hong Kong stock exchange can also apply for a quarantine exemption if their travel plans are “essential to the running” of the company. The new rules, some of which were posted on the Hong Kong government website on Friday, are effective immediately.

The decision came after concerns that Hong Kong was opening slower than other business centers due to Strict quarantine policy Vaccination rates are much lower than in London, New York and Singapore. The financial services sector accounts for more than 21 percent of the region’s GDP.

“It is a welcome development and we believe it should be extended to sectors,” said Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

But several banks cautioned that they are still seeking clarification on the details of the application process, including what defines a “chief executive officer”, and consideration of how to protect employees from returning travelers who are not subject to quarantine.

“Hong Kong has been cut off from the rest of the financial world, and now we are not,” said a Wall Street bank executive.

A second US bank executive said the exemption looks like a “special treatment of 1 per cent”, but would allow Hong Kong to maintain its status as an international financial centre.

But Frederic Golub, president of the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, said the government needed to “go big” as the city’s quarantine requirements appeared to be contributing to an influx of talent.

“There is growing frustration with this actual lockdown,” Golub said, adding that companies want broader easing of restrictions on vaccinated travelers. “The government has not tied vaccination campaign for a clear reopening strategy.”

HSBC said exempting bankers would “spur more economic activity across a wide range of sectors. Protecting public health and allowing business travel to gradually return to normal can coexist”.

travelers from Eight ‘high-risk’ countries Including the UK, India and Brazil – and almost all unvaccinated travelers – are required to quarantine in a hotel for 21 days upon arrival in Hong Kong. Arrivals who have been vaccinated from elsewhere are subject to a 14-day hotel quarantine, except for those from Australia and New Zealand, who must self-quarantine for seven days.

Global banks in Hong Kong have been in discussions with Asifma, Asia’s capital markets industry body, about whether to lobby the government for exemptions from travel quarantine rules since late last year. Some have expressed concerns that the rules could harm the territory’s standing as a global financial centre.

Concerns increased as vaccination rates remained low in the city. Only 15 percent of Hong Kong’s population is fully vaccinated, compared to 28 percent in Singapore, 27 percent in London and 43 percent in New York City.

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