The End of Quarantine in Hong Kong


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The End of Quarantine in Hong Kong

Last week Hong Kong announced that it would do away with the controversial quarantine policy starting this week. It has finally succumbed to mounting pressure to remove the policy that has been in place for the last two and a half years, hammering the economy and driving talent from the financial hub. John Lee, Hong Kong’s leader, announced in a conference that starting September 3rd, the Chinese territory is expected to resume quarantine-free entry. Lee said it was time to resume connectivity with the world for economic momentum and insisted that the city must not take the issue lightly. This essay discusses what is currently going on in Hong Kong as far as matters pandemic restrictions are concerned.

Currently, travellers going to Hong Kong are required to go through three days of quarantine at a hotel and another four days of medical check-ups. During this time, travellers are on restrictions and are prevented from accessing specific venues, including restaurants and bars. In line with the new guidelines, travellers will still be required to go through medical surveillance for three days which will be lifted if an individual registers a negative COVID test. Additionally, travellers will also be expected to take a PCR test upon arrival and three other subsequent tests that will be done daily (Hakim et al., 238). While the new arrangement is an improvement from the previous ones, they still dampen the chances of a sharp rebound, particularly in the tourism sector.

Lee’s announcement comes following months of warnings from residents and businesses that Hong Kong, which has positioned itself as Asia’s ‘world city’, is losing to regional rivals like Singapore. Currently, numerous potential investors are having second thoughts about investing in Hong Kong because they no longer not view it as a safe place for start-ups. According to city residents that have seen the change unfold right in front of their eyes, Hong Kong had been one of the most cosmopolitan cities, but COVID restrictions and protests are diming this advantage (Chan et al., 173). Investors feel legally unsafe as they are not sure if there Hong Kong’s judicial system is neutral while China’s legal system is full of grey areas. All these uncertainties in business are pushing investors away. Ten of thousands of Hong Kong residents are have exited the city as Beijing’s authoritarian control increases, and tight pandemic guidelines continue to stay in place. This is all in a bid to align with China’s strategy of zero-COVID cases aimed at dramatically reshaping city life. Over 120, 000 locals, people and expatriates alike exited Hong Kong in 2020 and 2021 and others more expected to follow suit this year. A 2021 survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce of Hong Kong showed that over 40% of expatriates admitted they were planning on leaving Hong Kong or are considering it, mainly citing Beijing’s draconian national security law, strict pandemic restrictions that curtail international travel and an unwelcoming outlook of future competitiveness (Han et al., 1525). Additionally, fewer professionals are moving to Hong Kong. According to government data, the number of work visa applications reduced from 41, 592 to 14, 617 from 2018 to 2020. The pandemic-related restrictions and Beijing’s crackdown on dissent are responsible for the ongoing exodus that has so far seen over 200, 000 depart from Hong Kong since 2020.

Hong-Kong is among the last economies to lift the pandemic-related quarantine. The city quarantine guidelines have been in place for the longest time as the city is caught between the zero COVID strategy developed by mainland China. On Thursday last week, Taiwan also announced it would halt quarantine for travellers by mid-October. Japan has also opened doors for the commencement of mass tourism after continuing its visa-free entry program. According to Gary Ng, Natixis bank’s senior economist, the move is an overdue step to restore competitiveness in the city, which will not go far enough. The move will still go a long way in boosting the aviation sector in business and tourism trips that are outbound, which is a positive move for the residents of Hong Kong.

Works Cited

Hakim, Avi J., et al. “Mitigation policies, community mobility, and COVID-19 case counts in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.” Public Health 194 (2021): 238-244.

Han, Emeline, et al. “Lessons learnt from easing COVID-19 restrictions: an analysis of countries and regions in Asia Pacific and Europe.” The Lancet 396.10261 (2020): 1525-1534.

Chan, Ho-Yin, et al. “COVID-19, community response, public policy, and travel patterns: A tale of Hong Kong.” Transport policy 106 (2021): 173-184.