International business groups in Hong Kong are asking the government to restart flights as the rating agency warned that a ban on traveling abroad would deter companies from using Hong Kong as their regional headquarters.
Executives traveling home for Christmas were left out of Asia’s financial hub after authorities suspended flights from eight countries, including the U.S. and the UK, to protect the city from the Omicron variant.
David Graham, executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, said the “unfortunate” flight ban surprised many.
“This will inevitably cause significant disruption and inconvenience, especially for many Hong Kong-based executives and employees who traveled to the UK for the Christmas period to be with family and who wanted to return to Hong Kong in early January,” he said. . Financial Times.
“We very much hope that the ban will be for a very limited period given the extensive quarantine and testing measures already in place for those returning from the UK.”
Hong Kong, which is pursuing a “zero Covid” policy, has reintroduced many regulations on social distancing following the outbreak of a disease initiated by the Cathay Pacifica crew, which was exempt from quarantine orders for travelers.
The government has also come under criticism after 13 high-ranking officials and 19 lawmakers were quarantined over the weekend after attending a big birthday party – contrary to official guidelines for avoiding large gatherings. Two of the 170 participants later tested positive for Covid.
The quarantine order was later revoked for many participants after one of the two cases was found to be false positive. The first in Hong Kongonly patriots”An introductory session of parliament is scheduled for Wednesday.
Flights from eight countries were banned for 14 days on Wednesday last week. Other airlines, such as Air Canada and Virgin Atlantic, temporarily suspended flights because they were unable to meet the Hong Kong government’s quarantine requirements for the crew.
The government said tougher measures must be implemented as the city faces the risk of a “major epidemic”.
Fitch Ratings, however, said the new restrictions could diminish Hong Kong’s economic growth prospects. “We believe that tightening restrictions on international arrivals will create additional obstacles to the territory’s ability to serve as the regional headquarters of foreign multinational companies,” it said.
Hong Kong has also recently introduced a seven-day mandatory quarantine for pilots and a crew operating cargo flights. The measure created chaos in the flight schedule, with Cathay Pacific reducing its cargo capacity to 20 percent and passenger capacity to 2 percent before the pandemic level.
Recent flight cancellations have sparked warnings about steep flights food prices are rising.
Those wishing to enter Hong Kong from most countries have already been subjected to three weeks of isolation in hotels and, in some cases, a state quarantine facility.
Restrictions prevented deaths and put pressure on health systems that can be seen elsewhere, but they also cut off the city from the rest of the world.
At the same time, however, the city has failed to persuade very elderly people to get vaccinated, and just over 20 percent of people aged 80 and over have been vaccinated.
This was previously warned by international business groups Hong Kong risked its crown as the main financial center of the region if it does not reopen its borders.
“Flight restrictions add another level of stress, cost and uncertainty for business executives living in Hong Kong,” said Tara Joseph, head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, which represents 1,400 companies in China.
“Some people are stranded, others are afraid of what’s next and there’s no indication when this will end.”
The U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong said “greater dialogue and transparency is needed regarding travel, testing and quarantine measures affecting Hong Kong as a place to live and do business.”
Additional reporting by Tom Mitchell of Singapore