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Donald Low
Donald Low

Donald Low argues that despite Hong Kong having no choice but to adhere to the mainland’s zero-Covid stance, it was always incumbent on the government to have a Plan B.

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Hong Kong’s economy has suffered as a result of clinging to Covid-19 restrictions far longer than necessary, in contrast to regional rival Singapore.

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Crisis has raised concerns about the health of banks, local governments’ fiscal viability, and impact of falling property prices on consumption and economic growth.

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A lack of mobilisation capacity was the reason given for Hong Kong’s abandonment of mass Covid-19 testing. Less has been said about the erosion of civil society and its effects on crisis response.

Authorities could have used last year to develop a road map for living with Covid-19 and prepare for an inevitable outbreak. They didn’t, leaving Hong Kong stuck inside its zero-Covid shell, despite the current outbreak’s heavy toll.

Donald Low highlights three scenarios of how the pandemic in Hong Kong ends: doubling down on dynamic zero-Covid; living with Covid by stealth; and serving as a pathfinder for the rest of China to reopen to the world.

Not only is the policy costly and impractical, it makes little economic sense if the mainland border shows no signs of reopening. Asking the city’s vaccinated majority to make more sacrifices for those who refused to get jabbed is also flawed, says Donald Low.

Sticking with zero-Covid risks surrendering Hong Kong’s position as Asia’s pre-eminent financial and business hub. But the current outbreak offers it an opportunity to find a more sensible and sustainable approach, writes Donald Low.

China’s crackdown on tech and a range of other sectors shows its economic policies are increasingly driven by ideological rather than market-driven considerations.

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The approach challenges long-held assumptions about the Chinese state being a strong, high-capacity one that thinks long term, and about an isolationist China being the result of Western efforts to contain her.

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Donald Low outlines a five-step plan for what is needed. Hint: quarantine exemptions for celebrities aren’t a good idea, but shorter stints for vaccinated people are.

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From a policy perspective, trying to achieve or maintain zero infections is neither tenable nor sustainable. The goal instead should be to drive up the vaccination rate as much and as quickly as possible, writes Donald Low.

A reluctance to accept Covid-19 will become endemic means the early victors against the disease may be the last to reopen their economies, writes Donald Low.

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With coronavirus cases falling, the two aviation hubs should experiment with ways to adapt to a new normal. But this could prove harder for Hong Kong than Singapore.

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Singaporeans reacted with barely concealed glee, while Hongkongers seemed resigned – differing responses that offer a window into residents’ thoughts, writes Donald Low.

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Lockdowns and shutdowns imposed to deal with the pandemic have taken a huge toll on every major economy – and exiting them provides an opportunity to rethink our overly networked world.

Comparisons to Sars are understandable, as is the public’s reaction to the outbreak, but fear and containment cannot work in the long run, says Donald Low.

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Crises are an invaluable opportunity to remake organisational habits that are no longer fit for purpose, and the current situation in Hong Kong is a chance to embark on socioeconomic policy and institutional reforms, writes Donald Low

Free trade, the rule of law, a functioning civil service … Singapore owes much to the legacy of British colonialism. Two hundred years since Raffles landed, it’s time the Lion City embraced another British idea: democratic accountability