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Exodus: Can Hong Kong stem the outflow of financial talent?

COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong
Photo: Reuters

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.

Jump to:

  • Brain drain
  • 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.

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    Elliot Wilson headshot.jpg
    Global Private Banking and Wealth Management editor
    Elliot Wilson is Greater China editor and Private Banking and Wealth Management editor. He joined the magazine in 2020 having been a regular contributor focusing on China and the Indian subcontinent, Russia and Eastern Europe/the CIS. He is based in Hong Kong.
    Chris Wright head.jpg
    Asia editor Euromoney
    Chris Wright is Asia editor. He covers the Asia Pacific region and is based in Singapore. He has previously been Middle East editor of Euromoney, editor of Asiamoney, investment editor of the Australian Financial Review and a correspondent on emerging markets and sovereign wealth for numerous publications worldwide. He has also written two books.
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