Berliner Boersenzeitung - Hong Kong and Singapore virus response a tale of two very different cities

EUR -
AED 3.935672
AFN 76.021312
ALL 100.451015
AMD 417.240403
ANG 1.935134
AOA 916.691547
ARS 970.524041
AUD 1.608636
AWG 1.928744
AZN 1.761418
BAM 1.95736
BBD 2.167948
BDT 126.160572
BGN 1.957535
BHD 0.403753
BIF 3087.346759
BMD 1.071524
BND 1.452451
BOB 7.419984
BRL 5.843987
BSD 1.073766
BTN 89.810671
BWP 14.52714
BYN 3.513434
BYR 21001.874238
BZD 2.164346
CAD 1.466164
CDF 3051.700363
CHF 0.955476
CLF 0.036211
CLP 999.174685
CNY 7.780125
CNH 7.809467
COP 4462.308937
CRC 561.247414
CUC 1.071524
CUP 28.395391
CVE 110.355032
CZK 24.913576
DJF 191.184192
DKK 7.458891
DOP 63.330486
DZD 144.324831
EGP 51.124773
ERN 16.072863
ETB 61.946983
FJD 2.40316
FKP 0.84072
GBP 0.846311
GEL 2.967835
GGP 0.84072
GHS 16.26712
GIP 0.84072
GMD 72.622544
GNF 9242.454139
GTQ 8.332798
GYD 224.641176
HKD 8.360536
HNL 26.552167
HRK 7.520426
HTG 142.452896
HUF 396.704506
IDR 17637.288263
ILS 3.99019
IMP 0.84072
INR 89.58746
IQD 1406.634466
IRR 45111.168079
ISK 149.102245
JEP 0.84072
JMD 166.984675
JOD 0.759385
JPY 170.303782
KES 137.693631
KGS 93.11213
KHR 4426.508061
KMF 492.847736
KPW 964.371917
KRW 1489.636743
KWD 0.328605
KYD 0.894822
KZT 494.448778
LAK 23555.998166
LBP 96153.548874
LKR 327.784362
LRD 208.41003
LSL 19.451288
LTL 3.163932
LVL 0.648154
LYD 5.206199
MAD 10.684117
MDL 19.198484
MGA 4839.044694
MKD 61.580067
MMK 3480.26879
MNT 3696.75858
MOP 8.631881
MRU 42.116574
MUR 49.984132
MVR 16.48544
MWK 1861.6754
MXN 19.661558
MYR 5.054913
MZN 68.250776
NAD 19.451288
NGN 1595.499629
NIO 39.521875
NOK 11.295954
NPR 143.69455
NZD 1.750244
OMR 0.412442
PAB 1.073766
PEN 4.103872
PGK 4.186376
PHP 63.037706
PKR 299.144263
PLN 4.328417
PYG 8080.517024
QAR 3.916195
RON 4.975947
RSD 117.053996
RUB 93.625367
RWF 1409.636887
SAR 4.019829
SBD 9.043847
SCR 14.509577
SDG 643.986328
SEK 11.240616
SGD 1.450405
SHP 1.353817
SLE 24.481438
SLL 22469.328678
SOS 613.594871
SRD 32.887756
STD 22178.387455
SVC 9.395578
SYP 2692.237144
SZL 19.44168
THB 39.367678
TJS 11.408608
TMT 3.750335
TND 3.360041
TOP 2.526766
TRY 35.197208
TTD 7.292882
TWD 34.66372
TZS 2812.751144
UAH 43.504473
UGX 4021.243176
USD 1.071524
UYU 42.294506
UZS 13575.822351
VEF 3881652.691254
VES 38.932242
VND 27272.969594
VUV 127.213469
WST 3.000927
XAF 656.486463
XAG 0.035117
XAU 0.000454
XCD 2.895847
XDR 0.814813
XOF 656.486463
XPF 119.331742
YER 268.255683
ZAR 19.243701
ZMK 9645.000691
ZMW 27.353061
ZWL 345.030354
  • RBGPF

    0.0000

    56.5

    0%

  • CMSC

    -0.1050

    24.4507

    -0.43%

  • GSK

    -0.1900

    40.76

    -0.47%

  • AZN

    0.1400

    78.56

    +0.18%

  • RYCEF

    0.1600

    6.13

    +2.61%

  • RIO

    0.6600

    66.92

    +0.99%

  • VOD

    0.1800

    9.09

    +1.98%

  • NGG

    1.3500

    57.85

    +2.33%

  • RELX

    0.0700

    45.65

    +0.15%

  • BTI

    0.3800

    31.5

    +1.21%

  • JRI

    0.1800

    12.03

    +1.5%

  • CMSD

    -0.0600

    24.24

    -0.25%

  • BP

    0.3200

    35.71

    +0.9%

  • BCC

    -3.5700

    122.72

    -2.91%

  • BCE

    0.2900

    32.79

    +0.88%

  • SCS

    -0.4100

    12.18

    -3.37%

Hong Kong and Singapore virus response a tale of two very different cities
Hong Kong and Singapore virus response a tale of two very different cities

Hong Kong and Singapore virus response a tale of two very different cities

Rivals Singapore and Hong Kong have become pandemic polar opposites, the former opting to live with the coronavirus and reopen to the world while the latter doubles down on zero-Covid and its international isolation.

Text size:

For decades the two cities have jostled to be Asia's premier international business hub, offering low taxes, dependable legal systems and seamless global connections.

Both adopted strict suppression tactics when the pandemic emerged, closing borders to keep infections low within their densely populated territories.

Now they present competing visions as they manage the highly transmissible Omicron variant -- with Hong Kong floundering under soaring infections while Singapore offers a pandemic exit strategy.

In the heart of Singapore's financial district, analyst Camille Chautard sipped a coffee on a bench at Raffles Place during the busy lunchtime rush hour.

"Now that it seems the new variant is less deadly, or at least the infections are less severe, it's probably a good time for Singapore to lead the way in the region and open up," she told AFP.

Earlier this week, health minister Ong Ye Kung said Singapore was moving closer towards normalcy, noting that "Omicron poses less of a risk".

Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam had a starkly different message.

Announcing compulsory testing for all 7.4 million residents, the tightest social distancing rules to date and plans to isolate all those infected, she said the city must "win the war".

"(Singapore) is miles ahead of Hong Kong in terms of dealing with these waves and especially mitigating the impact of the pandemic," Karen Grepin, a public health expert at the University of Hong Kong, told AFP.

- Openings vs closures -

The differences were clear on the streets this week.

In Singapore, children are back in class, residents are free to gather in hawker centres or enjoy post-work drinks, and people fly in and out for business or pleasure.

For Hong Kongers, in-person classes are suspended, businesses like bars and gyms remain closed, restaurants are only allowed to serve takeout in the evening, and international travel is increasingly impossible and involves lengthy quarantines.

"Zoom calls cannot replace the people-to-people connection...so (easing workplace restrictions) definitely helps," Singaporean businessman Vaibhav Dabhade told AFP.

"I believe that we still have an opportunity to open more, but so far the approach has been fantastic."

Such upbeat commentary is hard to come by in Hong Kong.

"The government's current zero-Covid policy seems to go against the trend," lamented a 39-year-old telecommunications worker surnamed Wong as he finished submitting to a Covid test outside a shopping mall in Sha Tin district.

"Every country around the world is living with the virus,” he added, describing the mass testing orders as a "waste".

- Politics vs health -

Hong Kong and Singapore are currently reporting thousands of infections per day and experts say the outbreak in both cities won't peak until sometime in March.

But as Hong Kong's healthcare and isolation system collapses, Singapore has so far avoided such a fate.

The city decided last fall to transition away from zero-Covid after realising it was not sustainable to isolate and hospitalise all the infected, Grepin said.

"We can't constantly live in that sphere, and I think Singapore is much better off because they recognised this early on," she said.

One key difference is the vaccination rate among the elderly.

Around 95 percent of Singaporeans aged 70 or above have received at least one dose of vaccine, while the figure in Hong Kong is 61 percent despite ample supplies.

That severely limits Hong Kong's ability to transition to living with the virus.

But there is another reason the city's hands are tied -- China.

Over the last six months Beijing has increasingly called the shots, ordering Hong Kong to stick to zero-Covid and decrying mitigation as a failed "Western" strategy.

Last week Chinese president Xi Jinping ordered Hong Kong to take "all necessary measures" to get the epidemic under control, reinforcing the reality that Hong Kong's post-pandemic future depends on Beijing.

"The decision to maintain a zero-Covid strategy after the advent of safe, effective vaccines is primarily a political decision as opposed to a public health decision," Grepin said.

- Travel vs isolation -

Singapore's approach has also come in for criticism, with some complaining about ever-changing, confusing restrictions.

And while the city's borders are slowly opening through quarantine-free travel with a number of countries, curbs are still tighter than in most Western countries, causing frustration for some foreign residents.

But compared to Hong Kong, which dubs itself "Asia's World City", travel ease is night and day.

Singapore's most recent data showed around 400,000 air passenger arrivals in December, while Hong Kong saw just 27,000 passengers in that same period.

"The longer (Hong Kong) endures the relatively restrictive mobility patterns compared to other hubs, the harder it will be to maintain its dominant position," Standard Chartered chief executive Bill Winters warned in a Financial Times report.

Even established mega-chains headquartered in Hong Kong are feeling the sting -- James Riley, chief executive of the Mandarin Oriental hotel giant, told the FT most of their executive team were now working outside the city.

"As a base from which to run a business, it's very, very poor today," Riley said.

In a January survey, the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong asked member companies which city represented the "greatest competitive threat".

Eighty percent answered Singapore.

(U.Gruber--BBZ)