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Singapore starts to reopen for travel, as ‘zero covid’ clips wings of rival Hong Kong

Mista

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HONG KONG — Asia's two most globalized cities faced a conundrum when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Among the first to close borders to nonresidents and impose draconian quarantine rules to keep people safe, the business hubs of Singapore and Hong Kong were suddenly cut off from the international connections that underpinned their success.

Now, the longtime rivals are diverging, with implications for thousands of companies with operations in the region.
After a successful vaccination rollout, Singapore is pivoting to living with the coronavirus and reopening to the world, while Hong Kong, like the rest of China, sticks to a “zero-covid” strategy that will keep it isolated. Singapore has begun to drop quarantine restrictions for some travelers and is preparing further easing; Hong Kong moved this week to tighten restrictions, putting most travelers into quarantine hotels for either 14 or 21 days.

The divergence threatens Hong Kong’s competitiveness as an international financial hub, particularly when compounded by escalating political risk from a new China-imposed national security law. Companies are shifting personnel out of the city, business groups say, adding to an outflow of some 90,000 people since mid-2020.

12 swabs and a blood test: Flying around the world in the time of delta

“It has reached a boiling point,” said Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. “Watching the rest of the world think forward while Hong Kong doesn’t budge and becomes more draconian is deeply frustrating and, for some people, the last straw.”

In an open letter Thursday to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, Frederik Gollob, chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in the city, said the quarantine rules are “out of proportion.”

“We are of the view that Hong Kong must open itself sooner rather than later or this new quarantine regime could lead many in the international community to question if they want to remain indefinitely trapped in Hong Kong when the rest of the world is moving on,” he wrote.

The Hong Kong government didn’t respond to a request for comment. In remarks this week, Lam said the government is doing everything “to protect Hong Kong from another major outbreak that we have seen and we have suffered.”

“We do not want to reverse our decisions on a frequent basis,” she said. “But sometimes in order to err on the side of caution and to prevent the spread of the disease, we have to do it.”

At stake is not only billions of dollars in business and the fate of two modern, international cities, but the wisdom of competing strategies as the pandemic rages on. Some places that moved quickly to curb coronavirus cases avoided thousands of deaths, but having squashed infections, they are struggling to determine an acceptable level of risk in populations that have yet to reach herd immunity particularly since the delta variant emerged.

Behind the divergent approaches of Singapore and Hong Kong is a yawning gap in vaccination rates, especially among the elderly. Only 10 percent of people over the age of 80 in Hong Kong have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine; another wave of infections, particularly of the delta variant, could devastate this group. Overall, 73 percent of Singaporeans are fully vaccinated — among the world’s highest rates — versus 45 percent in Hong Kong. Both cities began vaccinations at about the same time and offer the shots free of charge.

Public health experts say Hong Kong could boost its rate by dropping its reliance on “zero-covid” — a strategy that works toward not having a single coronavirus case — and instead incentivizing vaccination. So far, this effort has largely been left to businesses, which offer prizes such as free apartments and shopping vouchers.

“In Hong Kong, if we had a strategy and timeline to say once we go past 70 percent [vaccination] we can relax this and that . . . I think there would be a stronger push to get the vaccination coverage to that level,” said Ben Cowling, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, in a podcast episode released Thursday. “But it just seems like right now, if we are thinking about the alternative, like staying in a zero-covid strategy for months or a year, then actually it’s not a priority to get vaccinations up.”

“I think we’ve really got to take a look at strategies elsewhere, like Singapore,” Cowling added.

Officials in Singapore several months ago began priming people for the idea that they must live with the virus. Residents accustomed to low cases in the city-state would get jumpy over each new cluster, like one in May linked to the airport. Through op-eds from ministers and video campaigns featuring comedians and community leaders, the government sent a signal that the virus would be endemic and vaccination was the only way forward.

“All of this needs to be explained to the community,” said Dale Fisher, a senior consultant at the division of infectious diseases in Singapore’s National University Hospital. “Eventually you are going to have to let covid in, and as soon as you open borders and ease restrictions, covid will thrive.”

But, he added, “if we believe in the vaccine — which we do — then we don’t expect to see large numbers of severe disease.”

On Thursday, Singapore dropped quarantine for vaccinated travelers from Germany, Hong Kong, Macao and Brunei. Meanwhile, Hong Kong abandoned a shortened-quarantine measure and reclassified more than a dozen countries as high-risk, necessitating three weeks of confinement, regardless of vaccination status. The changes threw travel plans into disarray and left some begging for a space in quarantine hotels that are largely full.

Anyone in the city can also be forced into a quarantine facility if deemed a close contact of someone who tested positive.

Hong Kong officials have told business leaders the zero-covid strategy is driven by mainland China, said Joseph of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. Beijing increasingly dictates policy in the territory, despite its earlier promise to allow Hong Kong to largely run its own affairs until 2047.

China has stuck to this approach, locking down entire provinces, increasing surveillance and offering cash incentives to report on people suspected of carrying the virus. Chinese state media and some Chinese experts have continued to tout the wisdom of this strategy, arguing that deviating from it would overload the health system.

But as Singapore forges ahead, it may look increasingly attractive.

The absence of a clear plan for reopening has eroded Hong Kong’s value proposition to businesses, said Joseph. Hong Kong is already one of the world’s priciest cities and is the most expensive place to rent a luxury apartment. Some companies, because of the political situation and pandemic restrictions, have started to categorize Hong Kong as a hardship posting, adding tens of thousands of dollars to salary offers, she said.

“Even if you take the emotion out of it, it has to be worth the money to be here,” Joseph said.
 

Song Hong

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China is pondering for some tiered green corridor as it seems Covid is here to stay. China is not going to cut off from the rest of the world. Stay tune for China's plan.
 

casual

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China's in no hurry to reopen. It's not dependent on tourist dollars. In fact, China's domestic tourist industry benefits from covid restrictions on entry into China. Hong Kong is also doing well.
 

Mista

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China's in no hurry to reopen. It's not dependent on tourist dollars. In fact, China's domestic tourist industry benefits from covid restrictions on entry into China. Hong Kong is also doing well.
It makes sense for China to pursue 'zero covid' at the moment because they are largely self-sufficient and infection rates are still low enough to quash it down. The cost of pursuing 'zero covid' is still lower than reopening and loosening domestic restrictions.

The cost is much higher for HK. But it still makes sense for them to pursue 'zero covid' because they rely more on mainland China than on the rest of the world. They need to pursue the same strategy as mainland China, otherwise they can't connect with the mainland. That will be at the expense of international travel though.
 

艹艹艹

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Singapore trades Covid-Zero for ‘Covid Resilience’. How will it work?
10:17am, 21 Aug, 2021
  • It knows there are risks but wants to send a message that the economy relies on openness and a flow of foreign investment and talent

Singapore was well aware that “we are too small to survive on our own and we must tap global markets”, he said, reiterating that its economy relies on openness and the government continued to welcome foreign investment and talent.
 

Mista

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Singapore trades Covid-Zero for ‘Covid Resilience’. How will it work?
10:17am, 21 Aug, 2021
  • It knows there are risks but wants to send a message that the economy relies on openness and a flow of foreign investment and talent

Singapore was well aware that “we are too small to survive on our own and we must tap global markets”, he said, reiterating that its economy relies on openness and the government continued to welcome foreign investment and talent.

 

Song Hong

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There are strong reasons for China to be vigilant especially quasi state media already stated their suspicious the Covid 19 is a Fort Detrick bioweapon.

Unlike USSR, the Anglo Jews will not fade quietly into their demise, I am sure they will unleash bio terrorism on the world.
 

KampfAlwin

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HONG KONG — Asia's two most globalized cities faced a conundrum when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Among the first to close borders to nonresidents and impose draconian quarantine rules to keep people safe, the business hubs of Singapore and Hong Kong were suddenly cut off from the international connections that underpinned their success.

Now, the longtime rivals are diverging, with implications for thousands of companies with operations in the region.
After a successful vaccination rollout, Singapore is pivoting to living with the coronavirus and reopening to the world, while Hong Kong, like the rest of China, sticks to a “zero-covid” strategy that will keep it isolated. Singapore has begun to drop quarantine restrictions for some travelers and is preparing further easing; Hong Kong moved this week to tighten restrictions, putting most travelers into quarantine hotels for either 14 or 21 days.

The divergence threatens Hong Kong’s competitiveness as an international financial hub, particularly when compounded by escalating political risk from a new China-imposed national security law. Companies are shifting personnel out of the city, business groups say, adding to an outflow of some 90,000 people since mid-2020.

12 swabs and a blood test: Flying around the world in the time of delta

“It has reached a boiling point,” said Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. “Watching the rest of the world think forward while Hong Kong doesn’t budge and becomes more draconian is deeply frustrating and, for some people, the last straw.”

In an open letter Thursday to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, Frederik Gollob, chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in the city, said the quarantine rules are “out of proportion.”

“We are of the view that Hong Kong must open itself sooner rather than later or this new quarantine regime could lead many in the international community to question if they want to remain indefinitely trapped in Hong Kong when the rest of the world is moving on,” he wrote.

The Hong Kong government didn’t respond to a request for comment. In remarks this week, Lam said the government is doing everything “to protect Hong Kong from another major outbreak that we have seen and we have suffered.”

“We do not want to reverse our decisions on a frequent basis,” she said. “But sometimes in order to err on the side of caution and to prevent the spread of the disease, we have to do it.”

At stake is not only billions of dollars in business and the fate of two modern, international cities, but the wisdom of competing strategies as the pandemic rages on. Some places that moved quickly to curb coronavirus cases avoided thousands of deaths, but having squashed infections, they are struggling to determine an acceptable level of risk in populations that have yet to reach herd immunity particularly since the delta variant emerged.

Behind the divergent approaches of Singapore and Hong Kong is a yawning gap in vaccination rates, especially among the elderly. Only 10 percent of people over the age of 80 in Hong Kong have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine; another wave of infections, particularly of the delta variant, could devastate this group. Overall, 73 percent of Singaporeans are fully vaccinated — among the world’s highest rates — versus 45 percent in Hong Kong. Both cities began vaccinations at about the same time and offer the shots free of charge.

Public health experts say Hong Kong could boost its rate by dropping its reliance on “zero-covid” — a strategy that works toward not having a single coronavirus case — and instead incentivizing vaccination. So far, this effort has largely been left to businesses, which offer prizes such as free apartments and shopping vouchers.

“In Hong Kong, if we had a strategy and timeline to say once we go past 70 percent [vaccination] we can relax this and that . . . I think there would be a stronger push to get the vaccination coverage to that level,” said Ben Cowling, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, in a podcast episode released Thursday. “But it just seems like right now, if we are thinking about the alternative, like staying in a zero-covid strategy for months or a year, then actually it’s not a priority to get vaccinations up.”

“I think we’ve really got to take a look at strategies elsewhere, like Singapore,” Cowling added.

Officials in Singapore several months ago began priming people for the idea that they must live with the virus. Residents accustomed to low cases in the city-state would get jumpy over each new cluster, like one in May linked to the airport. Through op-eds from ministers and video campaigns featuring comedians and community leaders, the government sent a signal that the virus would be endemic and vaccination was the only way forward.

“All of this needs to be explained to the community,” said Dale Fisher, a senior consultant at the division of infectious diseases in Singapore’s National University Hospital. “Eventually you are going to have to let covid in, and as soon as you open borders and ease restrictions, covid will thrive.”

But, he added, “if we believe in the vaccine — which we do — then we don’t expect to see large numbers of severe disease.”

On Thursday, Singapore dropped quarantine for vaccinated travelers from Germany, Hong Kong, Macao and Brunei. Meanwhile, Hong Kong abandoned a shortened-quarantine measure and reclassified more than a dozen countries as high-risk, necessitating three weeks of confinement, regardless of vaccination status. The changes threw travel plans into disarray and left some begging for a space in quarantine hotels that are largely full.

Anyone in the city can also be forced into a quarantine facility if deemed a close contact of someone who tested positive.

Hong Kong officials have told business leaders the zero-covid strategy is driven by mainland China, said Joseph of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. Beijing increasingly dictates policy in the territory, despite its earlier promise to allow Hong Kong to largely run its own affairs until 2047.

China has stuck to this approach, locking down entire provinces, increasing surveillance and offering cash incentives to report on people suspected of carrying the virus. Chinese state media and some Chinese experts have continued to tout the wisdom of this strategy, arguing that deviating from it would overload the health system.

But as Singapore forges ahead, it may look increasingly attractive.

The absence of a clear plan for reopening has eroded Hong Kong’s value proposition to businesses, said Joseph. Hong Kong is already one of the world’s priciest cities and is the most expensive place to rent a luxury apartment. Some companies, because of the political situation and pandemic restrictions, have started to categorize Hong Kong as a hardship posting, adding tens of thousands of dollars to salary offers, she said.

“Even if you take the emotion out of it, it has to be worth the money to be here,” Joseph said.
We(Brunei) will have a vaccinated travel lane with Singapore, effective next month.
 

casual

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It makes sense for China to pursue 'zero covid' at the moment because they are largely self-sufficient and infection rates are still low enough to quash it down. The cost of pursuing 'zero covid' is still lower than reopening and loosening domestic restrictions.

The cost is much higher for HK. But it still makes sense for them to pursue 'zero covid' because they rely more on mainland China than on the rest of the world. They need to pursue the same strategy as mainland China, otherwise they can't connect with the mainland. That will be at the expense of international travel though.
You cant expect Washington post to be objective on HK policy. HK is nowhere near ready to open up.
 

Menthol

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I don't know.

Does Singapore opening up mean everyone went to Singapore without quarantine for 2-3 weeks?

Just a couple of weeks ago, Singapore was in a panic about the local transmission case from a Karaoke worker.

Besides, any vaccine is not proven to be very effective, even mRNA vaccine, just look at USA and Europe.
 

Tom99

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So, it is September now, about one month with Singapore's 'living with covid-19',

Singapore tightens COVID-19 curbs after seeing record infections

Singapore said on Friday it will tighten COVID-19 curbs to limit social gatherings to two people and make working from home a default, in a bid to contain a spike in infections and reduce pressure on the healthcare system.
COVID-19 surge putting 'serious strain' on Singapore hospitals; restrictions tightened

and

1,443 new Covid-19 cases in S'pore, 3 more seniors die

Three elderly people have died of Covid-19 complications, taking the death toll here to 76.

The number of fatalities in September now stands at 21 - which exceeds the 18 deaths in August.

A total of 1,443 new Covid-19 cases in Singapore were reported on Saturday (Sept 25) by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in its nightly update.

The latest daily tally is down from Friday's record of 1,650 infections.

This also marks the fifth consecutive day that the number of cases has crossed 1,000.

VS Hong Kong

Daily COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong (latest day first)

Saturday: 9 cases (0 local + 9 imported).

Friday: 7 cases (0 local + 7 imported).

Thursday: 2 cases (0 local + 2 imported).

Wednesday: 1 case (0 local + 1 imported).

Tuesday: 1 cases (0 local + 1 imported).

Monday: 5 cases (0 local + 5 imported).

Sunday: 3 cases (0 local + 3 imported).
 

Tai Hai Chen

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Covid-19 is a kind of common cold. It transmits without symptoms. It's too expensive to test every person every day. Humans will learn to live with virus on this planet. All are God's children. No need to kill each other off.
 

Mista

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And yet Singapore has 76 total deaths out of total 86K cases, while HK has 213 deaths out of 12K cases.

1632669810560.png
1632669950805.png


FYI our overall death rate since last year is around 0.09%, and around 0.01% for the fully vaccinated. In comparison, the seasonal flu has an estimated death rate of around 0.1% in the US.

1632670798393.png


Singapore's extremely low fatality rate shows that 'living with Covid' is not the wrong approach, especially when 82% of our population are already fully vaccinated.

We're tightening restrictions not really because to save lives from covid, but to reduce pressure on our healthcare system because we're still quarantining a large chunk of patients even when they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. We're buying time to stabilize and disseminate information on new healthcare protocols.

It's poor planning beforehand by the government, but we're still heading towards the general direction of 'living with covid'.



SINGAPORE - The multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 is committed to Singapore's reopening plans and will stay the course to make Singapore a Covid-resilient nation, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said on Friday (Sept 24).

But the latest round of restrictions is needed to ensure that the healthcare system can cope with the ongoing surge in cases, and to allow new healthcare protocols to stabilise
, he said during a press conference held by the task force.

He added: "It is hard for everyone to adjust to tighter measures again, I fully understand that. So I seek your understanding, support and your forbearance.

"Once our healthcare system is stabilised, once a new healthcare capacity is in place, we will continue with our reopening plans."

Mr Wong said the calibrated tightening of measures will reinforce individual efforts to scale back social interactions, so new healthcare protocols like the home recovery scheme can be stabilised.

The new scheme to allow Covid-19 patients to recover at home instead of being taken to a hospital or community care facility started on Sept 15 for vaccinated Covid-19 patients up to the age of 50 who have mild or no symptoms. It was extended to fully vaccinated patients aged between 51 and 69 on Sept 18.

About 40 per cent of infected cases are now placed on home recovery.

"We will give more breathing space for all our healthcare workers who have been working flat out throughout these past 20 months, and we will be able to augment our healthcare capacity further," Mr Wong said.

"This period will also allow more people to have their first jabs and seniors to get their boosters."

Mr Wong stressed that the measures are aimed at slowing the rate of transmission temporarily so that the healthcare system can cope, and not at bringing the number of new Covid-19 cases back to zero.

"After this wave crests, and it certainly will at some point in time, the daily numbers will come down, but they will stabilise at a new level, which is likely to be much higher than what we have been used to before," he said.

"In other words, we are not going back to a scenario of low daily cases any more. It is not going to be possible because we are moving forward to learn to live with the virus and we are continuing with our reopening plans."
 
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