Hong Kong quarantine rules: how long must SMEs suffer these unwarranted restrictions?

  • Our readers react to the travel restrictions and social distancing measures imposed by the government to fight Covid-19, and call for a crackdown on bad driving in light of the recent fatal accident in Tai Po

Like many international businesses with Hong Kong headquarters, I read with dismay about the suddenly tightened quarantine regulations (“Coronavirus: Hong Kong’s 21-day quarantine bombshell triggers hotel scramble with availability all but wiped out until mid-September”, August 20). These severely curtail cross-border travel and business activity.

If we were facing a severe and immediate crisis, such steps might perhaps be justified.

It goes without saying that many Hongkongers work in small and medium-sized companies, which are concentrated in professional services and the commercial sector. This sector is at the heart of Hong Kong and is what, to a large extent, makes it tick.

These are regionally mobile professionals who bring revenue, employment and many different benefits to Hong Kong. That we are severely punishing this sector while permitting actress Nicole Kidman to wander around shopping just beggars belief.

The local administration has failed to execute a comprehensive vaccination programme. Efforts to date are sub-par and cannot simply be explained by the unpopularity of the current administration or by vaccine scepticism. We need to try much harder and much faster before a Covid-19 variant cuts through Hong Kong like a knife through butter.

The failure to vaccinate many of the city’s over-70s and a sizeable number of our frontline public medical workers is unacceptable.

Senior citizen homes, as I have been told, continue to be served by cleaning staff and contractors who can visit several homes in a single working day.

And while we are not implementing the vaccine programme fast enough, neither are we improving quarantine hotels to limit the potential for cross-infection.

Meanwhile, there is no evident progress on the examination and rectification of crowded housing estates to prevent cross-contamination via sewage and related systems.

The bottom line is that the current quarantine policy is needlessly damaging key businesses while this administration is not adequately addressing the substantial threat or making sufficient progress on fundamental issues.

An ancient king of England once sat on a beach and demanded that the waves recede. It didn’t end happily.

Banning visitors may appear a popular move but is short-sighted and counterproductive in the longer term.

Singapore has already understood this: if we are not careful, we will lose out, and badly.

Steve Vickers, Lantau

Travel hurdles make overseas hiring a nightmare

I am a director of a small business which, after at least two years of trying, has been issued with a visa for a specialist to come to Hong Kong, only to find the real difficulties now start.

Apart from the challenge of getting a now already expensive, steadily-increasing-in-price ticket from, in our case, a much reduced flight schedule, the date of travel must coincide with the start of the period of quarantine in Hong Kong, which can only be done in a Hong Kong-government-approved hotel.

Finding space in such a hotel is very time-consuming. The hotel one is considering can be suddenly removed from the Hong Kong government’s list. Many hours can be spent trying to find an available space in one of the 35-odd approved hotels, but on confirming the date with the hotel, one could be told that the hotel is no longer on the list.

The “game” then starts again, putting a strain on relationships. The booking payments have to be made in advance and can be non-refundable. A mistake can be expensive.

We have been trying to “get it right” for several days now, including the wee hours. It is very upsetting, this “game” of catch-as-catch-can, with all the risk on the applicant.

The approach is highly unprofessional and needs putting right. It is no way to run a business, but we continue to try.

Peter Berry, Lamma

Social distancing policy in need of common sense

It is evident that our Covid-19 advisers and politicians do not regularly travel by bus or the MTR and become sandwiched several centimetres away from others. So social distancing does not apply to the things they do not see or want to see.

On the other hand, we are not allowed to spend time in open areas, such as barbecue sites, in the countryside, because again, our advisers make rules concerning places they do not know. Isn’t it time for some sensible social distancing regulations?

Peter A. Tanner, Yuen Long

Road safety must start with better driving

The deaths of two people caused by a taxi driver who slammed into a pedestrian island on Kwong Fuk Road is tragic (“Hong Kong taxi driver in Tai Po crash that killed 2 charged with dangerous driving causing death”, August 24). That a few others remain in hospital is a worrying reminder of the low driving standards of Hong Kong taxis and the government’s ludicrous policy of “Zero accidents on the road, Hong Kong’s goal”.

This government seems to have done nothing to improve the driving standards of those tasked with carrying members of the public nor to ensure people can cross roads legally without fear of being hit by drivers who run red lights.

Taxis remain adorned with illegally mounted banks of mobile phones fixed to their dashboards, and taxi drivers fail to indicate, illegally stop to pick up or drop off, illegally park and illegally idle their engines. They show no care or concern for their passengers or pedestrians.

The Road Safety Council is chaired by the deputy commissioner of police (operations), and is committed to reducing the number and severity of traffic accidents in Hong Kong by formulating road safety initiatives and undertaking education and publicity programmes to encourage everyone to take up responsibility to ensure the safety of every road user. Yet people are dying as a result of a failure of enforcement and a disregard for public safety in the face of worsening driving standards in Hong Kong.

Mark Peaker, The Peak