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Case cluster gives cause for concern

Hong Kong, 3 June 2020: The coronavirus is nothing if not tenacious. While Hong Kong has dealt with the pandemic better than almost any other jurisdiction, it would appear that new cases are inevitable. Therefore, our government’s extreme caution with regard to social distancing rules, quarantine arrangements and travel bans is justified and understandable.

Fresh concerns have arisen over a cluster of new infections at a housing estate in Sha Tin, where five people have tested positive since Sunday. The cases are classified as locally transmitted. Add two more imported cases and the city’s total is 1,093 – around 0.014% of the population – with four related fatalities. It should be stressed that both the number of cases and fatalities are remarkably low compared with what has happened in other parts of the world.

As a result, our government has decided health rules limiting public gatherings to groups of eight, as well as social distancing requirements for restaurants and bars, will be extended by another two weeks at least. This will naturally cause the cancellation, or at least significant scaling back, of public events, including tomorrow evening’s annual candlelight vigil to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

As well, compulsory quarantine for travellers from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan has been extended by one month to 7 July, while compulsory quarantine for Hong Kong residents arriving from anywhere else has been extended by three months to 18 September. There continues to be an indefinite ban on non-residents flying into Hong Kong from abroad.

However, officials are continuing to look at opening a “travel bubble” between Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province – under strict guidelines, of course – to kick-start economic activity between the three jurisdictions. We are told the Hong Kong authorities will launch a health code system to certify that residents are virus-free when they visit Macau and Guangdong. It should be noted that Macau and its mainland neighbour Zhuhai have been recognising each other’s health code systems since 10 May.

Meanwhile, it continues to be business as usual at Boase Cohen & Collins. Our office has remained fully functional, with the vast majority of staff present and observing the strictest hygiene protocols, since the pandemic began. I must thank my colleagues for their professionalism and dedication these past few months, it is truly appreciated.

On a personal note, I too have had to make adjustments to the “new normal”. As readers of my regular travel blog know, I invariably spend a significant amount of time overseas on business (or occasionally attending a sporting event). In fact, I have been grounded since mid-March, when I returned from the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – the race having been postponed two hours before it was due to start – and spent two weeks in voluntary self-isolation at home before returning to the office. On the plus side, my video conferencing skills have improved immeasurably.

Stay safe and well, everybody!

Colin Cohen
Senior Partner
Boase Cohen & Collins