Hong Kong pauses plan to exempt bankers from hotel quarantine

No applications from finance companies have been approved yet under the program. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Senior global bankers hoping to skip Hong Kong's stringent quarantine regime will need to wait as concerns about imported Covid cases ratchet up.

Bank executives who have applied to take trips in June are being advised to postpone, without any indication of when requests under the new plan will be processed, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The government is still ironing out the policy, including how detailed the applicant's itinerary should be, said the person, who declined to be identified discussing private information.

"We are looking into the details of the applications received, and expect to take some time to process them in the light of latest local and global pandemic situations to ensure relevant control measures are sufficient to mitigate the risk of case importation," said a spokesman for the Financial Services and Treasury Bureau, without providing further details.

The pause is a blow for fully vaccinated bankers looking to travel outside the city and for executives from abroad planning to visit the financial hub without needing to quarantine in a hotel for three weeks.

Hong Kong announced the new program on May 28 to give select bankers freedom to travel as other finance centres like New York and London slowly open up.

Under the proposed plan, each financial firm can apply for two quarantine exemptions per month for resident bankers and two for visiting executives.

City Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at the time the program could help with the recovery of the economy.

No applications from finance companies have been approved yet under the program, the person said.

While the pandemic is largely under control in Hong Kong, the city has seen an emergence of Covid-19 variants recently.

Health officials are tracing the cause of a Covid-19 mutation infection of a teenage student who didn't have any travel history.

The Asian financial hub is also struggling to get residents vaccinated. Despite abundant supplies of vaccines, just 16 per cent of Hong Kong's 7.5-million population has been fully inoculated, according to Bloomberg's Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker.

That lags behind other finance centres including Singapore, which is at 33 per cent.

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