Hong Kong (AFP) – The Hong Kong leader defended on Tuesday allowing JP chief Morgan Chase to skip a three-week Covid quarantine imposed on most other visitors, saying he worked for “a very large bank”.
The comments came as Hong Kong also announced that more than 100 cargo pilots have been placed in mandatory quarantine and the city is at risk of crew shortage.
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon landed on Monday for a 32-hour whirlwind tour without enduring the usual 21-day hotel quarantine, even as the international business center tightens restrictions to adhere to the “zero-strategy” Covid “from China.
Earlier this year, the HSBC boss was forced to undergo a full quarantine while on a trip to the city.
“As far as I know, the reason was economic,” Hong Kong Managing Director Carrie Lam told reporters when asked why Dimon was given a rare exemption.
“After all, it is a very large bank with significant businesses in Hong Kong,” she said, adding that the risk of transmission was low because Dimon’s route was short.
Hong Kong has maintained some of the world’s toughest quarantine measures and travel restrictions during the pandemic.
The strategy kept infections low, but ensured that a business center dubbed “Asia’s global city” has been shut down internationally in the past 20 months.
The government has linked the city’s fortunes to China’s “zero-Covid” strategy and has said normalization of travel with the mainland must come before any reopening to the rest of the world.
Authorities have warned that quarantine rules are unlikely to be lifted until at least summer 2022, possibly later.
Companies have complained that the rules hamper efforts to retain and recruit talent while rival hubs reopen.
In a meeting with reporters, Dimon himself said Hong Kong’s anti-coronavirus regime “made it more difficult” for his bank, Bloomberg News reported.
The bank chief’s exemption came as Lam announced that 130 Cathay Pacific cargo crew were sent to mandatory quarantine for 21 days after three tested positive for coronavirus upon their return from Germany .
Lam admitted that the move would have a “huge impact on our supply of goods.”
“If there are still a few cases like this, we will run out of cargo pilots,” she added.
But she said the measures were needed to keep the city free from infection.
In a statement, Cathay said the airline “was doing its best to maintain our freight network as much as possible” despite “difficult circumstances.”
Hong Kong’s stringent and sometimes contradictory health rules have fueled suspicions that the coronavirus is being used to reduce the population after the democracy protests two years ago and the subsequent crackdown on dissent.
Right now, 240 people can attend an indoor wedding banquet, but more than four people eating sandwiches together in a park remain banned under a law banning public gatherings.
There has been no major local coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong for more than two months.
© 2021 AFP