Coronavirus: low vaccination rate will undermine Hong Kong’s role as a global city
- High vaccination rates have made it possible for the US and Europe to ease travel and other restrictions, allowing life and business to return to normal
- Meanwhile, the slow pace of vaccination here has delayed a fuller reopening, without which businesses and livelihoods will continue to suffer
A flurry of good news in recent weeks is pointing the way to a post-pandemic landscape – in some parts of the world, at least.
Businesses across Hong Kong have been devastated as a result of the pandemic. The travel industry and associated sectors like retail and restaurants have most obviously been hit hard.
But they are far from the only ones suffering: members of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce range from small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups to global corporations, across all sectors, and very few have escaped unscathed.
The business community appreciates that the government’s policies have been highly effective in keeping the virus at bay. And we understand that, with Hong Kong’s vaccination rate at such a low level, it remains unsafe to return to restriction-free travel.
But Hong Kong’s success and prosperity have been built on our role as an international commercial hub. This means people need to be able to travel in and out of the city with ease – whether this involves a long-haul flight or cross-border day trip. And it is not just senior executives who need to travel as part of their jobs.
Being a global city also means that many Hong Kong residents – both locals and expats – have family and friends living overseas. The long-term separation from our loved ones is increasingly difficult to bear when there is no timetable to ease the quarantine rules.
Another concern is that the reluctance of people in Hong Kong to get vaccinated could cause long-term damage to our role as a global financial and business hub.
We know that a small minority of people genuinely cannot get vaccinated, so it is important for everyone else to have their shots to protect these more vulnerable members of society.
Hong Kong’s vaccination take-up has got off to a slow start, but we hope the pace will gather momentum as the global vaccination figures – now over 2.7 billion doses administered – increase people’s confidence in the vaccine.
This is the only path forward that will protect the health of all Hong Kong people, enable business operations to resume and allow our economy to return to prosperity once again.
George Leung is CEO of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce