The Hong Kong government is proposing to exempt fully vaccinated bankers from the city’s mandatory quarantine, easing travel restrictions to and from the Asian financial hub as coronavirus cases decline.

“Senior executives of licensed companies or their overseas subsidiaries who are fully vaccinated and meet the eligibility criteria may apply to be exempted from the mandatory quarantine provisions when returning or visiting Hong Kong,” Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) said in a circular published Friday evening.

Senior executives – those with regional or global roles – of SFC accredited companies can request four trips per month: two for visitors and two for returning executives, according to the circular. Effective immediately, exemptions are subject to full and timely disclosure of travelers’ itineraries and strict adherence to movement and accommodation restrictions, the circular said.

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“It is reasonable to have a [travel] arrangement, now that the coronavirus situation in Hong Kong is relatively under control, “said Dickie Wong, executive director of research at Kingston Securities.” There should be adjustments and changes. [in the outbreak situation]. “

The rule, announced the day after the entry into force of a Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble, offers an alternative to the resumption of business travel. The bubble, a bilateral travel arrangement between two destinations, was put on hold for the second time on May 17, when cases spiked in Singapore.

Hong Kong marked a day of zero new cases of coronavirus for the first time in more than six months, on May 27, suggesting a promising turnaround in the city’s months-long struggle against a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections that emerged last November. First quarter economic growth exceeded expectations, while fundraising through initial public offerings (IPOs) increased more than nine times, yet another sign that the city is on the verge of recovery from the epidemic.

The move was hailed by HSBC, the London-based bank which owes more than half of its total revenue to Asia, where Hong Kong is the biggest contributor. Four of the bank’s executives who are set to move to Hong Kong this year will likely be eligible for the SFC’s quarantine exemptions.

HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn and his city competitor Bill Winters of Standard Chartered Bank were placed under mandatory quarantine when they flew to Hong Kong in 2020, rare business trips during one year of lockdown.

“While the pandemic has shown how much can be accomplished virtually, a measured approach to facilitate business travel to and from Hong Kong will create a multiplier effect, further stimulating economic activity across a wide range of sectors. “said a spokesperson for the bank, pointing out that 70 of the world’s 100 largest banks have operations in the city. “Preserving public health and allowing business travel to gradually return to normal can coexist.”

Hong Kong, Asia’s second largest capital market, is also a critical hub for global business and finance. When HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn embarked on his only business trip in 2020, he chose to fly to Hong Kong, where he was placed under mandatory quarantine.

“This is a good start to making it easier for bankers to cross the border,” said Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, managing director of Christfund Securities, which represents the financial services industry in the city’s legislature. “However, the quota is too limited because only four senior executives can apply the quarantine exemption each month. That just won’t be enough to handle so many IPOs, mergers and acquisitions.”

By the rules, quarantine exemption requests must be made with a detailed itinerary of the proposed exempt executive for the duration of the trip to Hong Kong, as well as a Covid-19 vaccination record from an approved vaccine.

The form must be signed by a responsible officer or the head of the compliance function, who is responsible for ensuring its accuracy and authenticity.

Requests must be submitted to SFC at least five working days prior to travel. Successful applicants will receive an electronic authorization letter issued by Financial Services and the Treasury Office (FSTB).

True, a unilateral exemption from Hong Kong may not be reciprocated by other authorities, including mainland China, which subject visitors to mandatory quarantine.

“While a travel bubble is always the best, having a camp without a quarantine is better than nothing,” said Norman Chan, chief investment officer at GlobalWay Development, adding that the restrictions were “acceptable” as “the time had come”. [related] the opportunity cost is not too high without quarantining. “

However, there are restrictions on any travel to Hong Kong under the quarantine exemption. Only essential business activities should be included in the itinerary. Meals with other people and social activities should not be included.

Visiting executives are only permitted to vacate their designated accommodation for approved activities set out in the itinerary. There should also be Covid-19 testing, point-to-point transport, self-isolation and medical surveillance.

The itinerary should include contact information for people meeting with the executive in Hong Kong. Any changes to the itinerary must be submitted to SFC on arrival.

The company must submit an attestation form signed by an accountable officer or the head of the company’s compliance function every three working days or halfway through the trip, whichever occurs first, and on the last day of the trip. trip. , for a visiting executive, or the period of medical surveillance, for a returning executive, to the SFC.

Additionally, if an exempted person who is subject to self-isolation in a designated quarantine hotel room has violated the self-isolation requirement, the exempt status will be immediately withdrawn and sent to the quarantine center. for mandatory quarantine for 21 years. days. Failure to comply with the exemption conditions is punishable by a fine of HK $ 5,000 (US $ 644) and six months’ imprisonment, depending on the rules.

This article was originally published in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most official voice reporting on China and Asia for over a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP application or visit the SCMP Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2021 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.


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