Hong Kong hasn’t decided on Covid-19 hotel quarantine cut, John Lee says

HONG KONG – Hong Kong hasn’t decided whether it will cut the period of time new arrivals must spend in hotel quarantine before a series of high profile events starting at the end of October, and will make the call based on the Covid-19 situation closer to the event, Chief Executive John Lee said.

The city is hosting a summit for fintech leaders from Oct 31, then a summit for global bankers and an international rugby tournament in early November. The events are part of an effort to kickstart the Asian financial hub’s return to its former status as one of the world’s most vibrant cities.

It has been largely isolated for the past 2.5 years thanks to Covid-19 control measures designed to help thwart the virus and reopen its border with China.

Many industry leaders want to attend the fintech event, Mr Lee said during his weekly briefing on Tuesday, answering a question about Hong Kong’s competitiveness against Singapore.

But any decisions on whether those coming from outside Hong Kong will still need to quarantine – a major deterrent – will be based on the pandemic situation closer to the date, he said.

“So we need to make sure that we can protect our public health care system and high risk groups,” he said.

“We will keep analysing data and keep monitoring the situation. We will have regard to the actual situation and decide on our infection control measures,” he said, while expressing confidence the city’s events will be successful.

The city’s latest Omicron outbreak, which picked up pace at the start of the summer, seems to be slowing.

There were 7,938 new infections reported on Monday, during the mid-Autumn Festival, the third day in a row with fewer than 10,000 cases.

The city was targeting an end to the hotel quarantine in November, people familiar with the matter have said this month.

Still, the plans must be formally announced in advance to allow executives, staff and others to plan their trips.

New arrivals currently must quarantine in a hotel for three days, then monitor themselves for another four days to ensure they didn’t have a silent infection.

A health tracking app ensures they don’t eat indoors at restaurants or visit entertainment venues during the monitoring period.

Standard Chartered Plc’s Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters plans to attend the banking event organised by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority even if a quarantine is still in place, he said during an interview on the sidelines of a Bloomberg Live forum in Singapore on Monday. BLOOMBERG