The extremely transmissible omicron variant goes to be a “very troublesome problem” for Hong Kong as the town sticks to its zero-Covid coverage, a former U.S. diplomat advised CNBC.
There’ll probably be extra opposition to “draconian measures” on condition that the variant seems to be much less harmful, mentioned Kurt Tong, who was beforehand U.S. consul basic and chief of mission in Hong Kong and Macao from August 2016 to July 2019.
Tighter restrictions — including the closure of bars, cinemas and fitness centers — kicked in on Friday final week and are set to final till Jan. 20.
“We face a really dire state of affairs of a serious group outbreak any time, and that is why we now have to take very decisive measures,” Chief Government Carrie Lam mentioned when saying the brand new guidelines.
Will probably be very troublesome to realize zero Covid given the transmissibility of the omicron variant, and “there will likely be extra political stress to not have draconian measures be instituted in opposition to a comparatively small threat for many of the vaccinated inhabitants,” mentioned Tong, who’s now companion at enterprise advisory agency The Asia Group.
Hong Kong Chief Government Carrie Lam speaks on the vaccination service to the media earlier than a gathering on January 11, 2022 in Hong Kong.
China Information Service | China Information Service | Getty Photographs
Round 70% of Hong Kong’s inhabitants has acquired two doses of a Covid vaccine, according to government data. Nevertheless, a “vital proportion” of aged persons are unvaccinated, Tong advised CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday.
The federal government is “absolutely dedicated” to zero Covid, and “actually cannot again away from that method, whatever the financial influence, with out some instruction from Beijing to take action — which I do not see coming,” he added.
Requested concerning the public and enterprise sentiment towards zero-Covid technique, Tong mentioned “unhappiness is the first feeling — but additionally a way of resignation.”
Individuals perceive that Hong Kong needs to reopen the border with mainland China, and that it must comply with the identical zero-Covid coverage with a view to obtain that, Tong mentioned.
“That is simply the best way it’ll be,” he mentioned.
Tong added that he would not count on the border with China to open within the first half of this yr.
“The omicron problem is simply very vital, and so everybody’s going to be fairly conservative of their resolution making,” he mentioned.
Allan Zeman, chairman of property developer Lan Kwai Fong Group, beforehand defended Hong Kong’s strict guidelines.
“I feel on the whole, we’re protected and it is totally different to the horror tales I watch in Europe and the USA in the mean time,” he mentioned in December. Zeman was a candidate in final yr’s Legislative Council elections however didn’t handle to win a seat.
Hong Kong has reported 12,821 confirmed Covid cases and 213 deaths since the pandemic began.