Hong Kong, a city which hosted 65 million visitors in 2018, has been effectively closed to the world since March 2020. There is little sign of the border with mainland China opening this year. Strict Covid restrictions throttled consumer spending. In February and March, retail sales plunged more than 12% from a year earlier. The economy contracted 4% in the first quarter, one of its worst performances in the past 30 years.
Small and medium businesses employ about 45% of the workforce in Hong Kong’s private sector, making them crucial to the economy. Hong Kong’s unemployment rate climbed to 5% in the first quarter, a nine-month high. About 470,000 people applied for pandemic-related unemployment relief, 57% more than authorities expected, the government said in mid-April.
Hong Kong is “falling behind” as the rest of the world reopens, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. chairman Patrick Healy said at the airline’s annual general meeting Wednesday.
Hong Kong is moving in a more liberal direction than before, certainly compared with mainland China, where Covid Zero is being pursued with increasing zeal. This month, the financial hub ended a two-year ban on visits by all non-residents and eased some restrictions on inbound flights. Hotel quarantine for inbound travelers has been halved to seven days. Most remaining social distancing rules will be eased later this month.
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