EU warns of Hong Kong migration as diplomats protest Covid control measures

The EU has warned that more than one in 10 foreigners from member states have left Hong Kong because of Covid-19’s strict control measures, as Western consulates launch a diplomatic campaign to persuade the Asian financial center to relax restrictions.

The warning, contained in an EU diplomatic letter to the government, follows panic among many expats in Hong Kong over the official policy of separating some Covid-positive children from their parents, as well as plans for mass testing and the continuation of severe travel restrictions.

One person familiar with the matter said diplomats from the EU and the US were requesting a meeting with Hong Kong officials on the control measures, while another said at least 30 countries were working. jointly lobbied the government to soften these measures.

“We estimate more than 10% of EU residents in Hong Kong have left in the past year and a half. We’ve made it clear that this is a conservative estimate, as what we’ve been hearing over the last few weeks suggests that more people will be leaving Hong Kong,” said Thomas Gnocchi, head of the EU Office in Hong Kong and Macau. , told the Financial Times.

“There is a large EU community and many EU companies in Hong Kong. We are conveying their widespread concern from the possibility of forced isolation, even in the absence of symptoms, to school closures and reports of young children being separated. ”

Hong Kong is following China’s “zero Covid” policy, which, until the most recent outbreak, has significantly reduced the number of deaths compared to other parts of the world.

But the city has been swept by an outbreak of the Omicron variant, recording more than 70,000 cases since the outbreak began in late December, and more deaths than totaled in the first two years of the pandemic. .

As the outbreak spiraled out of control, Chinese President Xi Jinping stepped in this month and ordered the city government to make fighting the virus a top priority.

The Hong Kong government is planning drastic measures including Mandatory test for the entire population and then isolate those found to be positive in government quarantine facilities.

This week, the government also confirmed that, under certain circumstances, some children who have been caught with Covid will continue to be sick. hospitalized away from their parents. This policy applies to infants under one month of age.

“We are worried about infection control measures [so] Some children will be cared for by our professional staff in children’s isolation facilities,” said Lau Ka-hin, an official from the Hong Kong Hospital Authority.

The EU letter calls on the government to allow Covid-positive asymptomatic patients to be isolated at home instead of at government facilities and to adhere to the isolation standards of the World Health Organization. .

The EU’s estimate of the number of foreigners leaving its territory comes from a survey of member states. The letter said it was consistent with surveys showing a decline in the use of Hong Kong as a regional base for non-Chinese companies.

“After two years and not really seeing any exit strategy [from Covid]More and more people are considering moving and what has happened in the last few days is accelerating those plans,” said one European diplomat.

Among other measures, the Hong Kong government has reintroduced online learning, while Carrie Lam, the leader of Hong Kong, abruptly moved her summer break to March to use the school’s facilities. schools for pandemic control activities. International schools are campaigning against this measure.

Hong Kong authorities on Tuesday also extended a flight ban for nine countries, including the US and UK. Several global airlines have completely suspended flights to the country’s territory because of strict quarantine requirements for flight attendants and pilots.

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