Hong Kong leader defends US bank head quarantine exemption
Hong Kong’s leader on Tuesday defended allowing the head of JP Morgan Chase to skip a three-week Covid quarantine imposed on most other visitors, saying he worked for “a very big bank”.
The comments came as Hong Kong also announced more than 100 cargo pilots had been ordered into mandatory quarantine and that the city was at risk of running out of air crew.
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon landed on Monday for a 32-hour whirlwind tour without undergoing the usual 21-day hotel quarantine even as the international business hub tightens restrictions to adhere to China’s “zero-Covid” strategy.
Earlier this year HSBC’s boss was forced to undergo a full quarantine during a trip to the city.
“As far as I know the reason was economic,” Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam told reporters when asked why Dimon had been given a rare exemption.
“After all it’s a very big bank with important businesses in Hong Kong,” she said, adding that the risk of transmission was low because Dimon’s itinerary was short.
Hong Kong has maintained some of the world’s harshest quarantine measures and travel restrictions during the pandemic.
The strategy has kept infections low but ensured a business hub that dubs itself “Asia’s World City” has been cut off internationally for the past 20 months.
The government has tied the city’s fortunes to China’s “zero-Covid” strategy and said normalisation of travel with the mainland must come before any reopening to the rest of the world.
Officials have warned quarantine rules are unlikely to be removed until at least summer 2022, possibly later.
Businesses have complained the rules are hampering efforts to retain and recruit talent while rival hubs are reopening.
In a meeting with reporters, Dimon himself said Hong Kong’s anti-coronavirus regime “does make it harder” for his bank, Bloomberg News reported.
The banking chief’s exemption came as Lam announced 130 Cathay Pacific cargo crew were being sent to a mandatory quarantine for 21 days after three tested positive for the coronavirus on return from Germany.
Lam admitted the move would have a “huge impact on our supply of goods”.
“If there are a couple more of these cases, we will run out of cargo pilots,” she added.
But she said the measures were necessary to keep the city free from infection.
In a statement, Cathay said the airline was “trying our best to maintain our cargo network as much as we can” despite “challenging circumstances”.
Hong Kong’s strict and sometimes contradictory health rules have fuelled suspicions that the coronavirus is being used to keep the population down after democracy protests two years ago and a subsequent crackdown on dissent.
At present, 240 people can attend an indoor wedding banquet but more than four people eating sandwiches together in a park remains banned under a law prohibiting public gatherings.
There has been no major local outbreak of the coronavirus in Hong Kong for more than two months.