Hong Kong eases control measures amid fifth wave

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam at a press conference in Hong Kong on March 21, 2022.

New course change in Hong Kong in the fight against Covid-19: Monday, March 21, the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, announced the lifting of the ban on flights from nine countries (including France, the United Kingdom and the United States) and the reduction in the duration of the mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from fourteen to seven days, from 1er April. Carrie Lam also “suspended” the great compulsory universal screening operation. It was, however, the flagship measure of its vast plan to fight the fifth wave of the epidemic, made public on February 22, following very direct summons from Chinese President Xi Jinping a week earlier. to control the epidemic and take responsibility for this crisis.

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This new setback in the erratic management of the crisis comes at a strange time, since Hong Kong is still in the midst of the fifth wave, with a virulence clearly greater than the previous four. As for China, which had succeeded in isolating itself from the virus by imposing a zero Covid strategy, it seems, in turn, to be facing an uncontrollable invasion of the Omicron variant. “If anyone cares about Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center, it’s me,” said Carrie Lam, seeming to have suddenly understood that by isolating Hong Kong, she risked losing her main asset, both in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of China, that of the third financial center of the planet.

Although we are still far from a full reopening of the borders (only people with resident status are allowed to return to Hong Kong), these measures have been welcomed by the business and financial communities and the diplomatic and expatriate communities who had been desperate for them for months, if not years.

“Lack of humility”

It must be said that criticism of the government was now rising everywhere, and no longer just from pro-Beijing newspapers, which serve as a mouthpiece for the discontent of the Chinese central government. “At the heart of this crisis is a problem of leadership. More specifically a lack of humility and an unjustified overconfidence of some of our leaders”, thus wrote, in the English-language daily South China Morning Post of March 17, Ronnie Chan, one of Hong Kong’s big landowners. The spade was explicitly aimed at Carrie Lam. Several scathing open letters addressed to the chief executive have circulated on social networks and in the press, even though the main opposition media no longer exist.

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