Hong Kong is giving some top finance executives a pass on its strict quarantine rules in an attempt to protect business in the city from harsh coronavirus restrictions.
The city’s government has announced that two senior leaders at banks or insurance companies who are fully vaccinated can apply for a quarantine exemption each month.
They would still be required to book rooms at quarantine hotels, or stay in another approved location, but would be allowed to move about the city for scheduled business meetings. Hong Kong has mandated that most people traveling from abroad have to wear a tracking bracelet and isolate in a hotel room for three weeks.
“The government and different financial services regulators believe that Hong Kong should help financial institutions maintain normal operations amid the [pandemic], so as to ensure the stability of the financial system and maintain Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center,” the government said in a statement.
Visiting bankers must submit an itinerary and will still be required to take multiple Covid-19 tests during their stay. Senior executives at listed companies will also be eligible to apply.
HSBC (HBCYF), which announced in April that it will move four of its most senior executives to Hong Kong this year, applauded the decision.
“While the pandemic has showed how much could be accomplished virtually, a measured approach to facilitate business travels to and from Hong Kong could help stimulate more economic activities across a range of sectors,” the London-based bank said in a statement.
But the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong questioned the policy’s fairness.
“While we appreciate the government taking steps to open up travel to senior bankers in the financial services industry this move appears to be oddly inequitable, as it does not apply equally to other sectors, many of which have significant investments in Hong Kong and the region,” President Tara Joseph said.
Joseph noted that the policy appears to exclude the aviation, technology and legal sectors, as well as the arts.
The lobby group is encouraging Hong Kong’s government to treat the program for financial executives as a pilot that can later be extended to other industries, and to relax travel rules for fully vaccinated people more broadly.
— Michelle Toh and Eric Cheung contributed reporting.