Hong Kong and mainland China are the few regions left in the world adopting a zero-COVID-19 stance. This policy has put Hong Kong on the receiving end of quite a bit of scrutiny, with regulations making attracting and retaining talent in the city quite difficult.
The region has some of the strictest quarantine requirements, such as travelers having to quarantine for a minimum of three weeks at a designated hotel quarantine facility. Right now, bars and gyms are also shut.
Despite this, omicron has still been detected within the borders, and the city has seen its highest number of COVID-19 cases in over a year, at around 200 this month.
With this, the question remains: Is this stance sustainable, and will Hong Kong and the mainland pivot their stance to join other nations that have decided to just live with the virus?
A draft report by the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong has said that the city’s approach to COVID-19 may keep it sealed from the rest of the world until 2024, leading to a mass exodus of foreigners.
“We anticipate an exodus of foreigners, probably the largest that Hong Kong has ever seen, and one of the largest in absolute terms from any city in the region” in recent history, the report said. The report also added that if this zero-COVID-19 stance continues, it would probably lead to international companies looking for offices in other Asian cities instead.
An opening could happen late next year or early 2024, likely after China has mRNA vaccines ready for its 1.4 billion people.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong, which has the most expensive commercial real estate in the world, is now seeing more empty floor space than ever before. This is as expats continue to leave the city and tycoons continue building out buildings.
In December, vacant office stock in Hong Kong climbed to a record-high 9.1 million square feet (845,000 square meters) – equivalent to nearly 158 football fields, according to real-estate services provider CBRE Group Inc.
With this, landlords are reportedly becoming increasingly lenient and more willing to accommodate tenants’ needs, for example, with rent-free periods and lease terms that depart from the usual three years, said Ada Fung, an executive director for office services at CBRE Hong Kong.
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