Hong Kong expats are up in arms about quarantine. Singapore stands to gain

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“Singapore definitely has a better game plan,” said Fong, who has lived in Hong Kong for four years and does merchandising work at Versace.

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Fong is not alone. Hong Kong and Singapore have long competed to become Asia’s major global trade hub, but as the Chinese city’s international borders remain nearly closed, some businesses and expats are losing patience – and turning to the Southeast Asian hub are doing.

like many Asian countries, Hong Kong has embraced “Zero Covid” strategy, emphasizing social distancing, limiting travel and excluding most non-residents. Most travelers arriving in the city have to contend with one of the longest quarantines in the world, paying for three weeks of isolation in a hotel room.
Singapore initially adopted a similarly tough regime. But in recent months, the government has begun to switch “living with covid” playbook, announced plans to relax some rules and resume international travel With some countries like Germany. city-state also more commonly Allows people to quarantine at home up to 14 days.
This month, the Singapore model has already been tested – and somewhat failed – by a new outbreak of the Delta version, which has Suspended further reopening plans.
Some critics also point out that unlike Hong Kong, Singapore still has many other restrictions that pose challenges to daily life. Unless AugustFor example, people were not allowed to gather in public in groups of more than two, while in Hong Kong for months the permission Groups of up to four people in public places.

no end in sight

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But for many in Hong Kong, the grass is still green on the other side of the South China Sea.

Frederick Golob, president of the city’s European Chamber of Commerce, argues that Singapore is gaining an edge over Hong Kong, as he wishes to signal an end to heavy pandemic restrictions, even if progress has stalled.

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“Of course it is benefiting,” he told Granthshala Business, referring to Singapore. “It’s happening as we speak.”

Golob said he was aware of “multiple instances” of companies where C-suite executives were considering whether to move certain operations out of Hong Kong, or that were “expiring office leases”. were waiting for.” He declined to name those firms, citing sensitivity concerns.

With Singapore attempting to move forward, “those companies now have a choice, not because they were actively looking for it, but because of the situation.” [in Hong Kong], where everything is in limbo and you can’t plan ahead,” said Golob.

“That moving or non-existent goalposts are really the problem… Businesses hate nothing more than insecurities.”

Morning commuters wearing protective masks cross a street in Central, Hong Kong, on August 18.

That uncertainty is weighing heavily on Fong. The Versace employee said she had planned to travel home twice since the start of the pandemic, only to have her trips canceled both times because of changing quarantine restrictions.

“It takes a huge toll,” Fong said. “It could well drag on into 2023.”

The pressure on the Hong Kong government is increasing. In August, Golob wrote a widely circulated open letter to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, calling for the city to “open sooner rather than later”.

“[Otherwise,] This new quarantine regime could lead many in the international community to question whether they want to be stuck in Hong Kong indefinitely while the rest of the world moves on,” he wrote.

Hong Kong last recorded a local COVID infection on August 17, and has reported for weeks on average only a few cases per day from people entering from overseas.

“The question is, what do we need to do? Is it: do we need to get zero COVID? We have zero local infections,” said Golob, who represents over a dozen Foreign Room in the City.

“It has become very clear to us that someone … has to put forward a different perspective on the current situation.”

Pedestrians in front of the Hong Kong skyline in May.

Some officials have voiced their concerns directly to the government, albeit in private. Recently, the Asia Pacific head of a major European company warned Hong Kong Commerce Secretary Edward Yau that he would move a large part of his business to Singapore because of the quarantine restrictions, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“It was an attempt to demonstrate to the government that it [is] Not only talking, but things happening,” the person said.

The person declined to share further details, saying he was not authorized to speak on private matters.

The reverse of ‘Zero Kovid’

In an interview with Granthshala Business, Yau said he understood his frustration.

“I don’t want to be seen as necessary — or in a position to make the tough decision to leave any one company,” he said. “But so we maintain [such] Close contact with all foreign circles, persuading them and taking into account their views.”

Yau stressed that there was “no right solution” for governments around the world to try to balance both economic and health concerns. “No one size fits all,” he said. “It’s a double battle we’re fighting.”

Certainly, Hong Kong has had success in dealing with the pandemic.

The city recently marked more than 21 days without local infections, Yau noted, while pointing to Singapore’s recent uptick in coronavirus cases. The city-state has reported an average of 334 new daily cases since the beginning of September.

“Let’s not lose sight of it. It’s hard-earned,” said Yau. “We must maintain this high level of vigilance.”

The government has also pointed to The Economist “Global General Conditions Index,” Which tracks the resumption of activity across categories including work, shopping, entertainment and transportation. Hong Kong leads the ranking of the world’s 50 largest economies.
This month, Hong Kong also regained its position As the host of Rise, a marquee Asian technical conference it lost to Malaysia last year. Organizers cited the city’s efficiency in fighting the pandemic as part of the decision.
“We never give up on bringing back all these major events,” Yau said. He cited the International Air Fair Art Basel As another example, which Held It has its first in-person exhibition since 2019 in Hong Kong earlier this year.
Edward Yau, Hong Kong's Secretary of State for Commerce and Economic Development, speaking in the city in September.

There have been other bright spots as well. This month, Hong Kong announced it would loosen some border restrictions, allowing travelers from mainland China and Macau to enter the city without quarantine.

The reopening to the mainland has been crucial for businesses that see Hong Kong as a gateway to the vast market there.

In doing so, the government has been “forced to take a very strong approach to suppress the importation of infected cases from abroad so that our COVID-19 situation is acceptable to the authorities in the mainland,” according to Lam’s office.

Authorities in mainland China and Macau have yet to reciprocate, meaning most travelers to Hong Kong must still in quarantine There.
Hong Kong recently won 'Asia's biggest' technical conference

But for all the outrage among migrants, Yau argues that the local community may not feel the same.

“I don’t think the local community will agree” with similar demands for an end to the quarantine, he said.

One possible reason is that unlike Singapore, Hong Kong is battling Comment hesitation. in despite of seven months just to get shots for free About this 66% than the population has received its first dose of more than 80% of those on the island nation.

Lam’s team pointed to local vaccination rates as “less than satisfactory,” suggesting that this limited its pandemic response options somewhat.

an existing change

Even without the Covid crisis, headhunters were having trouble bringing new talent to Hong Kong, according to Jaya Das, managing director for Singapore and Malaysia at Randstad, a leading recruitment firm.

“There is some hesitation,” she said, noting the change in mood in recent months due to political events, such as the start of a controversial national security law Which has given Beijing more control over the city.

“I think where I see a change is more on a personal level how people feel emotionally about living in Hong Kong.”

A new survey finds more than 40% of expatriates are thinking of leaving Hong Kong

Some business groups have found this to be the case. According to the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, “an unprecedented number of migrants” [have been] Have been planning to leave or leave the city in the past few years.”

In a report released in May, the Chamber said With 42% of survey respondents considering or planning to leave, uneasiness over the security law was the main concern.
the law was introduced Last year in Hong Kong. It bans any activity that constitutes Beijing treason, secession and subversion, and allows Chinese state security to operate in the region.
Some firms have already reduced their presence in Hong Kong due to the political turmoil. Last summer, The New York Times Moved its digital news operations Hong Kong to Seoul for Asia, citing the potential impact of the security law. investment advice website Motley Fool and TIC Toc Took out too.
Singapore has long established itself as a prized choice for many companies. Some tech giants, like Facebook (American Plan) And Netflix (NFLX), already consider the country as a regional domestic base.
There's Only One Real Rival for Businesses Thinking of Leaving Hong Kong
Banks looking for opportunities in Southeast Asia have also warmed to Singapore. City (C), for example, announced This year it plans to hire 2,300 people in wealth management across Asia by 2025, and it expects new recruits to be mostly in Hong Kong or Singapore.
Deutsche Bank (database)Asia Pacific CEO Alexander von zur Mühlen is also based in Singapore, citing the lender’s commitment to “a dual-hub structure in the region”.

Das said that in some cases, the quarantine restrictions in Hong Kong have triggered the decision for job seekers to move to Singapore.

“I can’t say it’s based only on that,” she said. “[But] Right now, I think the climate in a pandemic … makes people reevaluate their choices.”

—Carlotta Doto contributed to this report.

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Credit : cnn.it

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