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Hong Kong may maintain COVID isolation until 2024, risking exodus


© Reuters. Hong Kong’s skyline, taken from Victoria Peak in Hong Kong on January 2, 2020. REUTERS/Navesh Chatrakar

HONG KONG (Reuters] – Hong Kong could reopen only in 2024 due to its strict COVID-19 policies. These might trigger an exodus of international firms and employees and compromise its status as a financial centre, said the European Chamber of Commerce.

The poor effectiveness of vaccines locally created is forcing China to keep travel restrictions tight, according to the draft that was submitted by the chamber. However, it has yet not been published.

The European Chamber of Commerce did not comment on this report.

It stated that Hong Kong’s most probable scenario would be for it to close down until China has released its mRNA vaccination across its population of 1.4 billion. This could take up until 2023 or 2024.

The chamber stated that if this was true, there would be a danger of the Asian financial hub experiencing a “cascade effect”.

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It stated that it expected a large exodus from foreigners. This would be the biggest ever witnessed in Hong Kong and the most significant in absolute terms of any other city in the area in recent times.

While Hong Kong has succeeded in keeping the virus under control for much of 2021, it has become one of the world’s most isolated places because of its travel restrictions and intermittent lockdowns that have accelerated a brain drain from the former British colony.

Authorities in Hong Kong struggled to contain a surge in infection rates during January.

According to the chamber, this scenario would lead multinational companies to shift or relocate their China-focused team to the mainland, or to move to Singapore or Seoul for their Asian region teams.

Hong Kong’s appeal as an international hub for business could be lost, as would its ability to help China’s economy.

According to it, the “potentiality of maintaining world-class universities in this city could be undermined by international talent leaving”.

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