Hong Kong adviser ‘very optimistic’ city will reopen within year

Bernard Chan says authorities in the financial hub may next aim to shorten quarantine.

Hong Kong airport is deserted
Hong Kong has been largely closed to the world during the past two years [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

A top adviser to Hong Kong’s leader says he’s “very optimistic” the city will reopen to the world within the next year and that shortening Covid-19 quarantine for inbound travelers is the government’s “next objective.”

“We all want to end this thing as soon as we can,” Bernard Chan, a financier and convener of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s advisory Executive Council, said in a Bloomberg Television interview Wednesday.

“I’m very hopeful as more data shows the omicron variant’s incubation period is actually much shorter, that perhaps we can aim for a shorter quarantine time,” he said. “You know, that’s probably the next objective.”

When asked if the city could reopen to the world within the next year, Chan said once Hong Kong had a “fully vaccinated community” and a better knowledge of omicron he was “very optimistic” the former British colony could meet that target.

Hong Kong has some of the world’s strictest border controls that require incoming vaccinated residents to quarantine for as long as 14 days, while flight bans are still in place on eight countries including the U.S. and the U.K. Chan said the government receives complaints about its lengthy quarantine rules on an almost “hourly basis.”

Lam has reiterated the city’s commitment to a zero-tolerance pandemic strategy focused on eliminating the virus from its borders, a policy shared with mainland China.

Chan, however, ruled out Hong Kong orchestrating a city-wide, China-style lockdown to stem the current outbreak of the highly-transmissible omicron variant.

“I don’t think we can ever go into a full lockdown,” he said. “We just can’t do it in Hong Kong. We cannot have the same sort of lockdown that you seen in the mainland.”

Source: Bloomberg