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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 the town sticks to its zero-Covid coverage, a former U.S. diplomat advised CNBC.

There’ll probably be extra opposition to “draconian measures” provided that the variant seems to be much less harmful, mentioned Kurt Tong, who was beforehand U.S. consul normal 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 scenario of a serious group outbreak any time, and that is why we’ve to take very decisive measures,” Chief Government Carrie Lam mentioned when saying the brand new guidelines.

Will probably be very tough to attain zero Covid given the transmissibility of the omicron variant, and “there will likely be extra political stress to not have draconian measures be instituted towards a comparatively small threat for a lot 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 obtained two doses of a Covid vaccine, in accordance with authorities information. Nonetheless, a “vital proportion” of aged persons are unvaccinated, Tong advised CNBC’s “Squawk Field Asia” on Thursday.

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

Sad however resigned

Requested in regards to the public and enterprise sentiment towards zero-Covid technique, Tong mentioned “unhappiness is the first feeling — but in addition a way of resignation.”

Individuals perceive that Hong Kong desires to reopen the border with mainland China, and that it must observe the identical zero-Covid coverage to be able to obtain that, Tong mentioned.

“That is simply the way in which it may be,” he mentioned.

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 12 months.

“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 believe usually, we’re protected and it is completely different to the horror tales I watch in Europe and the US in the meanwhile,” he mentioned in December. Zeman was a candidate in final 12 months’s Legislative Council elections however didn’t handle to win a seat.

Hong Kong has reported 12,821 confirmed Covid instances and 213 deaths for the reason that pandemic started.

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