© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Central Business District in Hong Kong, China, Sept. 15, 2021. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG (Reuters) – A financial industry group warned on Monday that Hong Kong’s zero COVID policy and strict quarantine requirements for international travelers are threatening to undermine the city’s status as a financial center.

The Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA) said a survey of members, including some of the world’s largest banks and wealth managers, found that 48% are considering relocating an employee or role out of Hong Kong due to operational challenges, including uncertainties in Hong Kong Regarding when and how the travel and quarantine restrictions will be lifted.

Hong Kong has some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world and is virtually COVID-19 free. In contrast to regional rival Singapore, which is slowly reopening its borders, the Chinese-ruled city has no public plan for opening up to foreign travelers.

Local leaders say their focus is on lifting travel restrictions from Hong Kong to mainland China, which also has strict entry restrictions. Currently, travelers from Hong Kong to the mainland still have to go into quarantine.

“Hong Kong’s status as a (international financial center), along with its long-term economic recovery and competitiveness as a prime location, is increasingly at risk,” Asifma’s Mark Austen boss wrote in an open letter to Hong Kong’s Finance Minister Paul. Chan.

The letter made a number of recommendations, including the publication of a “roadmap for exiting Hong Kong’s zero-case COVID-19 strategy beyond the immediate goal of opening borders with China” and prioritizing vaccinations.

Hong Kong has reported just over 12,300 cases since the pandemic began, most of which have been imported, and 213 deaths.

Regional rival Singapore is expanding quarantine-free travel to nearly a dozen countries, but authorities are making efforts to do so while staving off an increase in Covid-19 cases among the elderly and those with weak immune systems.

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