HSBC has raised the alarm on Hong Kong's strict quarantine rules by warning traders that the finance hub's extreme Covid measures are a risk to its business.
The bank has told a group of traders in the region that "the risk we now face is not merely about being infected by Covid-19, but most importantly being 1st and 2nd level close contact and being taken to government quarantine".
The memo to staff, seen by Bloomberg, points to a change in tone for a bank that until now has refused to criticise the unpopular quarantine measures.
Despite calls from bank bosses for officials to soften their stance for the sake of the city’s future as an Asian financial powerhouse, extreme measures are still being used to stop any signs of infection.
Like mainland China, Hong Kong has a “zero Covid” policy that requires a 21-day quarantine for inbound travellers. Earlier this month it tightened its regime, banning certain flights.
HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, has been relocating some key executives from London to Hong Kong as its focus tilts more towards Asia.
Late last year its chief executive, Noel Quinn, backed China’s Covid approach, saying “it's important for Hong Kong to establish what they need to establish with China on reopening”.
“I would love to get back to Hong Kong as soon as I can and when the authorities feel it's right for me to go back, I will,” he said.
HSBC’s finance chief, Ewen Stevenson, also argued last year that “plenty of people are happy to move to Hong Kong” and more senior people would do so over time. Both executives are based in London.
Bank chiefs have tried to make the situation more bearable for colleagues in the city, with Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan offering Hong Kong-based staff $5,000 each for hotel quarantine for personal trips.
Eddie Yue, head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, last year told a local newspaper his colleagues were sending finance executives trapped in hotel quarantine luxury food and wine packages so that they felt “less angry”.
HSBC's memo comes as Hong Kong moves to cull 2,000 hamsters after the suspected transmission of Covid-19 from an animal to a pet shop owner.
The bank declined to comment.