Hong Kong is unlikely to make any major changes to Covid restrictions for inbound travelers before a banking summit next month, but is considering concessions including allowing attendees to leave the city via private jet should they test positive for the virus.
The health bureau is in discussions with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to finalize details for the two-day summit set for early November, including what to do if a participant is infected, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak publicly.
One option being considered is to allow the Covid-positive person to leave the city on a private jet if arrangements can be made to keep them isolated while they travel from their hotel to the airport, as well as while they wait for their flight, said the people. If a person without access to their own plane tests positive, they will be allowed to isolate in their hotel room, in line with Hong Kong’s existing rules, they said. They wouldn’t be able to leave on a commercial flight, one of the people said.
Most attendees will stay at Hong Kong’s Four Seasons hotel, which is where the summit will be held, allowing authorities to manage them in a centralized way, according to the people. Deliberations about how the summit will proceed are ongoing and details may still change, they said.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority said in a statement that the government has approved a set of infection control arrangements for the summit, which will facilitate the event and business activities. The office of Chief Executive John Lee didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment. A spokesman for the government information office directed queries to the HKMA.
About 200 participants from over 100 major global firms including banks, securities companies, asset managers, private equity and venture capital firms, hedge funds and insurers, are expected to attend the summit. Top executives attending include Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chairman David Solomon, Blackstone Inc. President Jonathan Gray and Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer James Gorman.
Hong Kong has eased some of its strictest Covid curbs, including scrapping mandatory hotel quarantine entirely, in the lead-up to a series of events aimed at reviving the city’s global reputation. The changes had fueled speculation that the hub could go one step further and remove the three days of restrictions for new arrivals that prevents them from going to bars or eating at restaurants while permitting them to take public transport and go to work.
That optimism has been tempered by a more cautious note struck by officials as the daily case tally edges higher. Chief Executive Lee on Wednesday reaffirmed his plan to ease virus measures in an orderly manner to avoid “backtracking,” while stressing the city’s reopening efforts can’t pose a risk to mainland China, which still adheres to a Covid Zero policy even as the rest of the world lives with the virus.
The financial summit’s participants may be granted exemptions from the three-day restriction in order to attend specific events or venues, like restaurants at the Four Seasons, according to the people. All attendees must take part in the city’s PCR testing regimen, though there’s room for discussion about how many tests they will need to take, the people said.
The summit is aimed at conveying to the global financial community that Hong Kong is open for business after almost three years of Covid curbs that battered the economy and sparked a brain drain. But the number of rules still in place, as well as the need for exemptions for attendees, underscores how far the city has fallen behind other financial centers, especially regional rival Singapore.
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