Hong Kong Officials Deliver Treats to Quarantine-Riled Bankers
(Bloomberg) -- Officials at Hong Kong’s central bank are going out on their own in trying to quell the growing anger in the city’s financial community, delivering care packages to those ensnared by one of the world’s strictest quarantine regimes.
According to a spokesperson at the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, senior executives have “from their own pockets” sent “confectioneries to a handful of executives under quarantine as a token of personal regards,” partially confirming an earlier report by the Hong Kong Economic Times.
In an interview with the local media outlet released Monday, HKMA Chief Executive Eddie Yue said that the authority had put together a team to deliver “wine and gourmet food” to quarantined finance workers in hopes of making them “less angry with Hong Kong.” The spokesperson refrained from giving more specifics on the efforts or the scope of the program.
Frustration is mounting in the Asian financial hub as its strategy to combat the virus deviates from rival centers such as Singapore, London and New York. Officials are pursuing a zero Covid approach in an effort to re-open the border with mainland China, placing incoming travelers in hotel quarantine for as long as three weeks. After the outbreak of omicron, the strategy is now even being tightened further, forcing travelers from the U.S. and other countries into a government-run quarantine center for one week upon arrival.
Foreign business groups in Hong Kong are warning that it puts the city’s status as a global financial hub at risk. An October survey found almost half of major international banks and asset managers are contemplating moving employees or functions out of Hong Kong.
Costs are also adding up for lenders in the city. Banks such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS Group AG are offering compensation of about $5,000 for its staff to cover the costs of quarantine stays. A stay at Hong Kong’s designated quarantine hotel can cost between HK$500 ($64) to HK$3,630 a night for a non-suite room.
Not everyone has had to endure quarantine. JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon was last month given an exemption when he came for a 32-hour visit to the city. Actor Nicole Kidman was also given a pass to film a series about expatriates in the city.
Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, defended giving Dimon an exemption, saying it was justified from an economic perspective since Dimon runs a “very huge bank with key business in Hong Kong.”
Lam’s strategy has also received backing from the biggest bank in the city, HSBC Holdings Plc. In an interview last month in Singapore, Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn said it was “important for Hong Kong to establish what they need to establish with China on reopening.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.