Exodus: Can Hong Kong stem the outflow of financial talent?
As Covid fatalities rise fast, senior bankers are fleeing a city that, despite today's relaxation of some rules, is increasingly cut off from the world. Will Hong Kong ever be the same again?
What a difference a pandemic makes. When Covid first emerged in China, the country’s most outward-looking city reacted to the threat swiftly and decisively.
Hong Kong was praised at first for keeping its citizens safe; forcing arrivals to quarantine for up to three weeks. Business travel slumped and tourists stayed away, but the city stayed relatively protected. And because bars stayed open, complaints from big banks and corporates were easy to ignore.
Then came this year’s deadly Omicron surge. The variant has ripped through a city that still stubbornly clings to an unviable ‘zero-Covid’ strategy. The seven-day rolling average of coronavirus-related deaths up to March 13 was the highest in the world. Hong Kong’s death rate is now 23 times higher than Singapore’s.
Despite bolting the door and keeping the virus out for nearly two years, the Chinese territory was shockingly unprepared for Omicron. A once-vibrant financial hub that liked to party hard is now a ghost town. Gyms are shut. Bars close their doors at 6pm.