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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 troublesome problem” for Hong Kong as the town sticks to its zero-Covid coverage, a former U.S. diplomat advised CNBC.

There’ll seemingly be extra opposition to “draconian measures” provided that the variant seems to be much less harmful, stated 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 state of affairs of a serious neighborhood outbreak any time, and that is why we now have to take very decisive measures,” Chief Government Carrie Lam stated when asserting the brand new guidelines.

Will probably be very troublesome to attain zero Covid given the transmissibility of the omicron variant, and “there can be extra political stress to not have draconian measures be instituted in opposition to a comparatively small threat for many of the vaccinated inhabitants,” stated Tong, who’s now associate 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 Pictures

Round 70% of Hong Kong’s inhabitants has obtained two doses of a Covid vaccine, based on authorities information. Nonetheless, a “vital proportion” of aged individuals are unvaccinated, Tong advised CNBC’s “Squawk Field 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.

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.”

Individuals perceive that Hong Kong desires to reopen the border with mainland China, and that it must observe the identical zero-Covid coverage in an effort to obtain that, Tong stated.

“That is simply the best way it should 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 determination making,” he stated.

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

“I believe generally, we’re secure and it is totally different to the horror tales I watch in Europe and the USA in the mean time,” 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 for the reason that pandemic started.

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