“For us, everything remains unpredictable and therefore unmanageable: even if you have complied with all the rules, there is absolutely no guarantee that you will be able to travel.” It is in these terms that Michiel Mak, vice-president of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong reacts on the site Bloomberg.com to the announcement of the new easing of travel restrictions announced by the Hong Kong authorities from May 1st.
For the first time in two years, non-residents will be allowed to enter the territory – provided they are vaccinated, submit to the two compulsory tests (a PCR test plus a rapid antigen test) and are ready to spend seven days in quarantine, at their own expense, in a hotel. In addition, airlines that have transported more than five travelers contaminated with Covid will continue to see their flights to Hong Kong suspended for five days instead of seven today: highly criticized by companies and travelers, the device devices says “of circuit breaker” (“circuit breaker”) therefore remains in force, explains Bloomberg.
Too limited relaxations
According to George Cautherley, vice-president of the International Chamber of Commerce, these arrangements will not have much effect for companies that do business with Hong Kong:
“For business travelers, quarantines are simply not financially viable.”
“The politics of circuit breaker, even eased, will continue to pose logistical problems that are difficult to solve. That is why we are asking the government to give it up as soon as possible,” says David Graham, executive director of the city’s British Chamber of Commerce.
Slow easing of the zero Covid policy continues to undermine Hong Kong’s competitiveness, says Johannes Hack of the German Chamber of Commerce:
“We still don’t have a clear roadmap when it comes to reopening borders and quarantine-free travel.”
In fact, in addition to still very limited flight options, the cost of plane tickets and that of quarantines are enough to deter visitors from traveling to Hong Kong, notes the South China Morning Post. The least direct flight to Europe currently costs 11,000 Hong Kong dollars, or just over 1,300 euros. And in most hotels offering reservations from next May, the price per night is between 1,150 and 5,950 Hong Kong dollars (140 to 720 euros) according to the newspaper’s survey.
For Helen Cheung Hoi-yan, head of public relations at the Nina Hotels group, no one expects an immediate boom in bookings.
A clearly dissuasive policy
The nightmare of travelers who have to go to Hong Kong, as described by journalist Eli Meixler, of the FinancialTimesis therefore not about to end: “
“At 1 a.m., I found myself stranded in Istanbul and started to have doubts: could I return to Hong Kong? I had no return ticket, I had already left New York twenty-four hours ago and despair was creeping in…”
A New York-Hong Kong trip that before the pandemic took 16 hours non-stop turned into a veritable marathon which, from canceled flights to transit airports, took the journalist to Istanbul, Singapore and Bangkok, where he had to wait four days before finally being able to fly to Hong Kong.
A misadventure which constitutes a textbook case. Despite the relaxation of some entry requirements, Hong Kong’s zero Covid policy remains a very effective deterrent:
“The international airport, once the busiest in all of Asia, is being dethroned by its rivals, companies are relocating their staff, who can no longer stand forced separations… It is difficult in these conditions to imagine that the city can soon regain its world rank.”
the old“Asia’s World City” – the city “open to the world” – will no doubt remain the“Asia’s Walled City”, as expatriates now call it : a fortress.