An official said Hong Kong faces a “difficult balancing act” in easing border rules

Hong Kong faces a difficult balancing act as the city aims to lift some border restrictions on international travelers from next month, according to a government official.

Chinese territory It plans to ease the travel ban on flights from nine countriesincluding the US, UK and Australia, allow these travelers to quarantine in a hotel for seven days instead of 14. The changes will take effect on April 1.

“It is very important that we cater to international business people, but also we have a very large population in Hong Kong that needs to ease restrictions on the border with mainland China, because this is also a very important part of Hong Kong for family and business reunions as well,” he said. Bernard Chan, Executive Board Member, on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.

“So it’s a very difficult balancing act,” he said, especially since China continues to see pockets of Covid outbreak.

Hong Kong Executive Council It is a cabinet-like body that advises the city’s chief executive.

China He was battling the worst outbreak of Covid Since early 2020, with local governments blaming the new omicron BA.2 variant for the current wave sweeping the country. biggest city Shanghai The two-phase shutdown began on Monday.

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Hong Kong has stuck firmly to the policy of “dynamic zero” of the coronavirus, as in mainland China, in its quest to stamp out all outbreaks with sweeping restrictions and quarantines.

The city recorded 7,685 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and 168 deaths. According to official dataas the latest wave of oomicron infections continues to recede.

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Between March 22 and 28, a average 4217.4 Cases were reported daily, down from the average of 8704.4 cases per day reported in the previous seven-day period, according to government data.

However, Hong Kong still lags behind its regional peers – particularly Singapore, the rival financial hub, which it said last Thursday It will lift nearly all border restrictions on vaccinated travelers from next month.

“While the rest of the world opens up, we need to try to find a way out,” Chan said. He added, “From the 1st of April, we started reducing the quarantine time in the hotel from 14 days to 7 days. It is clearly not good enough, but it is still a huge improvement.”

Covid affects the state of the business center

According to a recent report by European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, The city’s “zero-Covid” strategy has come “at a very high cost to the business community in Hong Kong”.

The survey found that 49% of the companies surveyed said they are considering moving their offices completely or partially in the next 12 months.

Moreover, the current restrictions have hampered the company’s strategy or staffing plans for 2 out of 3 companies in Hong Kong, the report added.

Acknowledging “these tough times” for Hong Kong, Chan said he remains confident the city will regain its position as a global business center when the pandemic is over.

“I really think Covid will end,” he said. “It’s a question of when it ends.” “Hong Kong remains very attractive for being the hub of the Greater Bay of China and China’s economy continues to grow. I think people will come back.”

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