Hong Kong Won’t Reopen Until Mid-2022, Government Advisor Says | Business and Economy News


Hong Kong could open up to global travel in about six months, after authorities successfully introduce quarantine-free borders with mainland China and increase the local vaccination rate, a government adviser said.

The Chinese territory must finish negotiating the opening of borders with the mainland, while using the coming months to increase the rate of Covid-19 inoculation among the city’s elderly, Lam Ching-choi, member of the executive council advisory to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, said in an interview on Monday.

“We may need around six months to develop an adequate immunization rate, especially in the elderly,” said Lam Ching-choi, who is also on the government’s immunization task force. “I hope that by then we have opened the border with China and we may have favorable conditions to open the border to other places.”

Despite purchasing enough vaccines when they became available, Hong Kong has struggled to immunize its population of around 7.4 million people. Vaccination hesitation, fueled by fears of side effects especially in the elderly, has hampered their use. Only 17% of people aged 80 and over in Hong Kong have received at least one injection, compared to 69% of the overall eligible population. And government efforts, including targeted pop-up vaccination sites in shopping malls and public housing estates, have yet to boost participation among older Hong Kongers.

Covid alone

As other countries continue to open up, Hong Kong and China remain the only places in the world to pursue a “Covid Zero” strategy that aims to eliminate local transmission of the virus through strict measures, including long quarantines, rigorous contact research and targeted testing blitzes.

The approach, however, has not been able to fully eradicate the virus in China. He is currently struggling to suppress his fourth outbreak of the more transmissible delta variant in the past five months.

In a more cosmopolitan Hong Kong, the measures have led to growing frustration for international businesses and residents who face mandatory hotel quarantines of up to 21 days if they leave and return to the city. Foreign chambers of commerce have warned the government that the travel rules risk ruining Hong Kong’s reputation as a global finance hub, and have complained that there is no endgame or end game. exit strategy.

Hong Kong’s strict quarantine rules have caused frustration among expats and foreign companies [File: Bloomberg]

If Hong Kong cannot open the border with mainland China, then it should start seeking to reestablish ties with other countries, University of Hong Kong epidemiology professor Benjamin told Bloomberg TV on Monday. Cowling. He also warned that any travel bubble with the mainland could prove fragile if the delta variant crosses Hong Kong. It is one of the densest cities in the world and the only one that has not experienced a delta epidemic.

“Look at Singapore, Australia, New Zealand – they all had a hard time stopping delta,” Cowling said. “We do not have the same tools at our disposal as on the continent.

Barrier to vaccination

Lam Ching-choi, the councilor, said that it is only after the city’s vaccination rate is higher and Hong Kong has opened up to the outside world again that the authorities can “talk about the endgame scenario, ”which could include a more laissez-faire approach to the virus.

“Even though we want to live with the virus, like many other places do, we don’t have the vaccination rate to do it,” he said.

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