Hong Kong’s restrictions ease while researchers say half of population has already caught COVID

Hong Kong’s restrictions ease while researchers say half of population has already caught COVID
FILE PHOTO: A flight attendant walks under an information board at the arrivals hall of Hong Kong International Airport, following infections of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Hong Kong, China January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Lam Yik

The previous challenge with the mainland’s zero-COVID stance was that very few people in the country had the natural immunity your body builds after catching the virus. On top of that, the Western world was skeptical about how effective Chinese vaccines are. It wasn’t until recently that the mainland actually introduced the first foreign COVID treatment into their country.

Hong Kong was in a tough situation because it was aligning itself with Beijing when it came to its COVID stance. This also meant the international hub grew more isolated from the world and prompted a huge outflow of residents because of how strict the social distancing rules were.

But then, after its fifth wave, which came after Chinese New Year, researchers at the University of Hong Kong said that about 3.6 million Hong Kongers caught the disease through March 14, which is pretty much half the city. So with the case numbers seemingly peaking and treading down and the outflow of residents not slowing down, leader Carrie Lam has said that, among other things, the flight ban on nine countries will be lifted, hotel quarantine for travelers will be cut, dine-in hours will be extended and the mass testing will be suspended for now.

Key comments:

“The flight ban is no longer timely and appropriate … it will bring huge disturbances to Hong Kong people who are stuck in these nine countries if we continue the ban," Lam told a news briefing.

“People’s motivation is more to escape from a surge in Covid as more than 70% of travelers booked one-way tickets, increasing from only 26% pre-pandemic,” said Olivier Ponti, ForwardKeys’ vice president of insights.

“We believe this is an important first step towards putting Hong Kong back on the map, not only as an international finance center, but also as a connector city for industry and commerce between mainland China and the rest of the world,” said Johannes Hack, president of the German Chamber of Commerce.

“The roadmap is a relief for confirming the reopening path, but the pace is still a big question mark. If Hong Kong does not find a way to close the gap with other competitors, the current reopening pace may not stop the outflows of talent. The most important comparable advantage of Hong Kong is on its free flows of capital and people. Without it, it is for sure that Hong Kong will lose its competitiveness,” said Gary Ng, an economist at Natixis in Hong Kong.

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