Norris Fong hasn’t seen his family in Singapore in almost two years. He’s had it up to here, and he’s fed up. The 33-year-old fashion buyer plans to return to his own country because he is fed up with the city’s corona limitations and does not have a clear reopening strategy. He has lived in Hong Kong for four years, believes his adopted country has a superior strategy.
Fong isn’t the only one who feels this way. Historically, Hong Kong and Singapore have fought it out to be Asia’s top global commercial center. However, since the Chinese city’s international boundaries remain practically closed, some companies and expats are becoming impatient and moving to the Southeast Asian metropolis instead.
As Beijing started to tighten its control on the former British colony, several businesses began evaluating the advantages of Singapore over Hong Kong as a centralized Asian commercial center. Their virus-containment methods have risen to prominence as the covid epidemic nearing the two-year mark.
Hong Kong, like many other Asian nations, has adopted a “zero Covid” policy that emphasizes social isolation, restricts travel, and keeps out most visitors. For the first three weeks after arriving in the city, most visitors are quarantined in a hotel room due to one of the world’s longest quarantines.
In the beginning, Singapore had a similarly onerous system. Select restrictions will be relaxed and foreign travel will resume with some nations, such as Germany, in recent months as the government has started moving toward a “living with Covid” strategy. In addition, residents of the city-state are more likely to be able to quarantine themselves for up to 14 days at home.
A new outbreak of the Delta strain has temporarily halted Singapore’s reopening preparations after Singapore’s model was put to the test — and partially foiled.
While some argue that Singapore lacks the many limitations that exist in Hong Kong, others say the same about the island nation. For example, until August, groups of more than two were not allowed to congregate in public areas, while Hong Kong has long permitted gatherings of up to four individuals.
No End in Sight at This Moment
However, the grass is still greener on the other side of the South China Sea for many Hong Kong residents.
Singapore’s European Chamber of Commerce chairman, Frederik Gollob, believes that Singapore is gaining an advantage over Hong Kong because it is ready to announce the end of onerous pandemic restrictions, even though progress has slowed.
For him, Singapore is “beneficial” since it is so close. “It’s occurring now,” says the announcer.
“Many instances” of businesses whose executives were deciding whether to move certain operations out of Hong Kong or waited for “office leases to expire,” according to Gollob, were mentioned. He didn’t want to mention the companies out of respect for their privacy, so he didn’t.
“Those businesses now have an option, not because they were actively seeking for it, but because of this scenario [in Hong Kong] where everything is in limbo and you can’t plan ahead,” Gollob said of Singapore’s march forward.
According to the author, “This shifting or non-existent goalpost is precisely the issue… companies detest nothing more than uncertainty.”
Fong is feeling the weight of this unpredictability. When the epidemic started, he claimed, he made arrangements to return home twice, but both visits had to be postponed because of shifting quarantine regulations.
Fong said, “That takes a tremendous toll.” The situation “may very possibly go on until 2023.”
Ongoing pressure is being exerted on Hong Kong’s administration. Gollob sent an open letter to Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong leader, in August, urging her to “open herself sooner rather than later.”
This new quarantine system “may cause many in the foreign community to wonder whether they want to stay forever imprisoned in Hong Kong while the rest of the world is going on,” he said in his blog post.
Many in the foreign community may begin to wonder whether they really want to be stuck in Hong Kong for the foreseeable future as the rest of the world progresses.
Covid infections in Hong Kong have been rare in recent weeks, with just a handful of cases each day reported from individuals arriving from other countries.
“It begs the question: What are we supposed to do now? Is it correct to say: “We must reach Covid zero”? There are no local illnesses at this time “”I represent more than a dozen international chambers of commerce in this city,” Gollob, who makes the statement, stated.
Someone must “put forth an alternative perspective on the present situation,” “it became quite apparent to us.”
Some business leaders have privately voiced their worries to the government. According to a source acquainted with the situation, a large European company’s Asia Pacific head recently informed Hong Kong Commerce Secretary Edward Yau that it would transfer a significant portion of its operations to Singapore due to quarantine limitations.
“It was an effort to show the administration that this [is] not only talking but things are occurring,” the individual said.
The individual refused to elaborate anymore, claiming they were not allowed to talk about private issues.
The Advantages of a ‘Zero Covid’ Strategy.
Yau told CNN Business that he sympathized with their plight in an interview.
There should be no need for — or circumstance where — anyone business is forced to make the difficult choice of leaving, he added. In explaining and taking into account the views of all foreign chambers, we maintain [such] close contact with them.
Yau emphasized that governments around the world trying to strike a balance between economic and health-related concerns had “no perfect solution.” He said, “There is no one size fits all. “We’re engaged in a two-front war right now,” says the general.
As it turns out, the city of Hong Kong has had some success in combating the epidemic there.
Yau stated that Singapore has seen an increase in coronavirus cases in the last few weeks after the city had been free of local illnesses for more than 21 days. Since the beginning of September, the city-state has seen an average of 334 new cases each day.
“Keep that in mind. This is a well-deserved reward “Yau made the statement. This degree of alertness must be maintained at all times.
It also cited The Economist’s “global normality index,” which monitors the return of activity in a range of areas such as employment, shopping, entertainment, and travel. In a list of the world’s 50 largest economies, Hong Kong comes out on top.
Rise, a prestigious Asian tech conference, was re-hosted in Hong Kong this month after Malaysia won the bid last year. The city’s effectiveness in combating the epidemic had a role in the choice, according to the organizers.
“We never lose up,” added Yau, “in bringing back all these big events. Another example he gave was the renowned art show Art Basel, which earlier this year hosted its first in-person exhibition in Hong Kong since 2019 as an example.
Other things are looking up, however. Mainland Chinese and Macao residents will no longer be required to undergo quarantine in Hong Kong, as the city declared this month.
Businesses relying on Hong Kong as a launching pad to the Chinese market have welcomed the city’s reopening to the rest of the country.
Lam’s office said that in order to comply with mainland authorities, the government has been compelled to adopt “a very strong strategy to restrict the importation of infected patients from abroad.”
China and Macao have yet to reciprocate, therefore most Hong Kong visitors will have to spend time in quarantine.
In spite of the uproar, Yau believes that the local population may not share their concerns.
According to him, calling for quarantine to be lifted will be met with opposition from the local population.
The fact that Hong Kong is dealing with vaccination reluctance, in contrast to Singapore, may be one explanation for this. With seven months to obtain them, just around 66% of the population has received their first dosage, compared to more than 82% of those on the island country.
Local vaccination rates were deemed “less than acceptable” by Lam’s team, who suggested that this hampered the country’s ability to respond effectively in the event of a pandemic.
An Already Existent Reversal
According to Jaya Dass, managing director of Singapore and Malaysia at Randstad, a prominent recruiting company, headhunters were having difficulty attracting new talent to Hong Kong even before the Covid issue.
As a result of political developments, such as the adoption of China’s contentious national security legislation, she noted that the atmosphere had shifted in recent months, giving Beijing more influence over the city.
I notice a change in the way people feel about living in Hong Kong on an emotional level, rather than a practical one.
The same has been discovered by some business organizations. In recent years, “an unprecedented number of expatriates have left or plan to leave the city,” according to the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.
42 percent of poll respondents indicated they were contemplating or preparing to leave, according to a chamber study published in May, with unease about the security legislation being the primary worry.
Last year, lawmakers in Hong Kong passed legislation enacting the measure. It prohibits any action that the Chinese government considers to be a form of sedition, secession, or subversion, and grants permission for Chinese state security forces to operate on the land.
Due to the political unrest, some companies have already scaled back their operations in Hong Kong. The New York Times relocated its Asia digital news business from Hong Kong to Seoul last summer, noting the security law’s possible effect. As well as investment advice website Motley Fool and TikTok quitting, there was also a withdrawal from Instagram.