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Omicron will problem Hong Kong’s zero-Covid coverage, ex-U.S. diplomat says

The extremely transmissible omicron variant goes to be a “very tough problem” for Hong Kong as town sticks to its zero-Covid coverage, a former U.S. diplomat informed CNBC.

There’ll doubtless be extra opposition to “draconian measures” on condition that the variant seems to be much less harmful, stated 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 — together with the closure of bars, cinemas and health facilities — kicked in on Friday final week and are set to final till Jan. 20.

“We face a really dire state of affairs of a significant neighborhood outbreak any time, and that is why now we have to take very decisive measures,” Chief Govt Carrie Lam stated when asserting the brand new guidelines.

Will probably be very tough to attain zero Covid given the transmissibility of the omicron variant, and “there will probably be extra political stress to not have draconian measures be instituted in opposition to a comparatively small danger for many of the vaccinated inhabitants,” stated Tong, who’s now associate at enterprise advisory agency The Asia Group.

Hong Kong Chief Govt 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 Photos

Round 70% of Hong Kong’s inhabitants has acquired two doses of a Covid vaccine, in response to authorities knowledge. Nevertheless, a “vital proportion” of aged individuals are unvaccinated, Tong informed CNBC’s “Squawk Field Asia” on Thursday.

The federal government is “totally dedicated” to zero Covid, and “actually cannot again away from that method, whatever the financial affect, with out some instruction from Beijing to take action — which I do not see coming,” he added.

Sad however resigned

Requested concerning the public and enterprise sentiment towards zero-Covid technique, Tong stated “unhappiness is the first feeling — but additionally a way of resignation.”

Folks perceive that Hong Kong needs to reopen the border with mainland China, and that it must observe the identical zero-Covid coverage as a way to obtain that, Tong stated.

“That is simply the best way it’ll be,” he stated.

Learn extra about China from CNBC Professional

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 choice making,” he stated.

Allan Zeman, chairman of property developer Lan Kwai Fong Group, beforehand defended Hong Kong’s strict guidelines.

“I feel generally, we’re protected and it is totally different to the horror tales I watch in Europe and america for the time being,” he stated 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 circumstances and 213 deaths because the pandemic started.

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