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Global Times

HKSAR eases COVID-19 quarantine for locally listed firms

Global Times Published: 2020/6/8 22:23:56

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Monday announced a new program that eases quarantine rules for some of the largest companies listed in the city.

Buoyed by the fresh move to reinvigorate the economy, hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, local financial professionals hope for an expansion of the program to cover more firms and a step further toward lifting quarantine restrictions on travel back to the Chinese mainland.

Directors or executives of eligible Hong Kong-listed companies may apply for exemption from the compulsory quarantine rules when they arrive at Hong Kong from the mainland, according to a government announcement.

The new mechanism, subject to a pre-determined quota, covers listed companies that account for around 95 percent of the total market capitalization in Hong Kong, the announcement said, without disclosing the specifics.

A South China Morning Post article on Monday counted the eligible companies as 480, revealing that the arrangement will cover Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding, the two largest companies listed in the city.

Additionally, executives of insurer AIA or HSBC going to the mainland for designated purposes will be exempt from the 14-day quarantine on their return to Hong Kong, read the article.

Tencent and Alibaba have yet to respond to a request for comment. AIA couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

HSBC couldn't provide any further details when reached by the Global Times on Monday.

"The new program is in addition to one implemented earlier that facilitates directors of listed companies or listing applicants to fulfill their regulatory requirements, such as attending shareholders' meetings and regulatory hearings, taking into account market demand and the business needs of individual companies," said Monday's announcement.

It cited Christopher Hui, the city's newly appointed Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury.

"The new program will facilitate directors or executives of sizable Hong Kong-listed companies to perform business activities that are essential to their operation. This is conducive to maintaining the normal business operation of these enterprises under the very dynamic and challenging business environment," Hui said.

Each of the eligible listed companies is allowed to nominate a maximum of two persons - directors or executives - during any calendar month for the exemption.

Each nominee may travel or return to Hong Kong from the mainland once per month with the compulsory quarantine waived. Multiple applications from the same nominee within the same month won't be accepted.

A marketing manager of a Chinese-invested financial institution in Hong Kong said his firm has yet to be covered by the exemption, meaning that two-way travel between the mainland and Hong Kong remains subject to the 14-day quarantine rule.

Calling the restriction "quite unreasonable," the manager told the Global Times on Monday that he hoped for an expansion of the program in the near future.

The Financial Services and Treasury Bureau didn't respond to a question from the Global Times about plans to expand the exemption.

A manager of the Hong Kong branch of a Beijing-based financial institution, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Global Times on Monday that executives and average employees of mainland-based companies are already exempt from the quarantine rules upon arrival in Hong Kong as long as they hold exit-entry permits for official purposes. This arrangement dates back to more than a month ago.

The issue now is that they are still subject to quarantine on their return to the mainland, the manager said.

"All exempted persons should note that currently, travelers to the mainland would still be subject to the 14-day compulsory quarantine requirement imposed by the mainland authorities," said the HKSAR government announcement.

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