International business groups in Hong Kong are pleading with the government to resume flights, as a rating agency has warned that a ban on foreign travel will deter companies from using Hong Kong as their regional headquarters.
Drivers traveling home for Christmas were stranded outside the Asian financial center after authorities suspended flights from eight countries, including the US and the UK, to protect the city from the Omicron variant.
David Graham, executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce in Hong Kong, said the “unfortunate” flight ban surprised many.
“This will inevitably cause significant disruption and inconvenience, especially to the many Hong Kong-based executives and employees who traveled to the UK for Christmas to be with family and who wanted to return to Hong Kong in early January,” he said. said the Financial Times.
“We very much hope that the ban will be in place for a very limited period of time given the extensive quarantine and testing measures already in place for those returning from the UK.”
Hong Kong, which pursues a ‘zero-covid’ policy, has reintroduced many social distancing regulations following an outbreak sown by Cathay Pacific flight crews, which was exempt from traveler quarantine orders.
Flights from the eight countries were banned for a period of 14 days on Wednesday last week. Other airlines, such as Air Canada and Virgin Atlantic, temporarily suspended flights because they could not accommodate the Hong Kong government’s quarantine requirements for crew.
The government said tougher measures should be put in place as the city faces the risk of a “major outbreak”.
However, Fitch Ratings said the new restrictions could dampen Hong Kong’s economic growth prospects. “We believe that tightening restrictions on international arrivals will create further barriers to the region’s ability to serve as a regional headquarters for foreign multinational companies,” it said.
Hong Kong also recently launched a seven-day mandatory pilot quarantine and crew operating cargo flights. The measure created chaos for flight schedules, with Cathay Pacific reducing its cargo capacity to 20 percent and passenger capacity to 2 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
The latest flight cancellations have caused steep warnings price increases for food.
Those who want to enter Hong Kong from most countries are already subject to three weeks of isolation in a hotel and in some cases a government quarantine facility.
The restrictions prevented the deaths and stresses on health systems seen elsewhere, but also cut off the city from the rest of the world.
At the same time, however, the city could not succeed in persuading the many elderly people to be vaccinated, with just over 20 percent of people aged 80 and older being vaccinated.
International business groups have previously warned Hong Kong risked its crown as the region’s leading financial center if it does not reopen its borders.
“The flight restrictions add another level of stress, cost and uncertainty for business executives living in Hong Kong,” said Tara Joseph, head of the US Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, which represents 1,400 companies in the Chinese region.
“Some people are stranded, others are afraid of what is next and there is no indication of when it will end.”
The US Consulate in Hong Kong said there should be “greater dialogue and transparency on travel, testing and quarantine measures that affect Hong Kong as a place to live and do business”.