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Irresistible roar of the Three Lions

Hong Kong, 16 June 2021: I’m feeling overwhelmed by nostalgia. This week, we’ve been told Hong Kong’s historic Post Office headquarters is destined for the wrecking ball to make way for commercial redevelopment; our famous Peak Tram is bidding farewell to its iconic retro-style carriages in a HK$700 million (US$90 million) upgrade; we’ve even had headlines about colonial-era Governor David Wilson and his concerns over the 1997 handover, courtesy of newly declassified documents.

But, mostly, I’m sentimental because Football’s Coming Home. Euro 2020 (no, that’s not a mistake, it was supposed to be held last summer) is underway and, for the first time in its 60-year history, the tournament is being played not in one or two host nations, but across the whole of Europe. In total, 11 cities are staging matches, including London. The last time England hosted a major international football tournament was Euro 96, with the anthemic Three Lions top of the pop charts and the entire nation singing:

It’s coming home, it’s coming home
It’s coming, football’s coming home

That summer ended as it usually does for England, in heartbreak, and Germany lifted the trophy. However, enthusiasts like myself are nothing but optimists, despite 55 years of hurt. Three Lions is all the rage again, flags of St George are flying in my homeland, and fans are crossing borders freely and flocking to stadiums, celebrating not only a festival of football but, it seems, a rebirth after the agonies of Covid-19. Europe’s robust recovery from the pandemic is on full display, the 60,000 supporters packing into Budapest’s Puskas Arena for Hungary vs Portugal last night a reflection of the home nation’s impressive vaccination rollout that sees 54% of its population fully inoculated.

Contrast that with Hong Kong, where we have stagnation. Public gatherings remain limited to four people. Mask wearing in public places has been mandatory for almost a year. Just over 16% of the population is fully inoculated, a desperately disappointing return on a mass vaccination programme that has been running for 110 days. Jab bookings have increased thanks to incentives worth more than HK$120 million (US$15.4 million) from the business sector, but few people believe the momentum will be sustained.

This city’s leaders are doggedly pursuing their goal of zero Covid-19 cases, so we retain some of the harshest quarantine controls in the world even as developed nations reopen for business. Fully inoculated citizens are treated pretty much the same as non-vaccinated ones under our government’s blinkered approach. For the record, health officials confirmed two imported coronavirus cases yesterday, bringing the city’s cumulative total to 11,880, with 210 related fatalities. No danger, no need for the jab in the minds of many.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau yesterday revealed the government is considering easing quarantine and social distancing rules for vaccinated individuals. We’re not holding our breath. Considering, examining, looking into, thinking about – terminology we have come to associate with this administration’s Covid-19 exit strategy. It’s all too much for our former Chief Executive CY Leung, who has warned that a year of border closures has forced mainland China’s business sector to seek “substitutes” for its traditional Hong Kong partners which “may become permanent” if we don’t get back to normal soon. True, CY, true.

Thankfully, social distancing rules, restricted dining regulations and mandatory mask wearing (at most times) proved no impediment to the BC&C Partners’ Retreat this past weekend. With all concerned grounded in Hong Kong, we decided to turn this biannual event into a staycation for families, so it was a significant group which booked into the Conrad Hotel. Other halves and youngsters splashed in the swimming pool while we legal professionals enjoyed illuminating talks from medical practitioner Dr David Owens, who advised on health and wellbeing for lawyers, and investment manager and broadcaster Richard Harris, who examined how human behaviour shapes the stock market.

Heeding David’s advice about the need to escape work and remembering Richard’s amusing video showing how individuals can act on impulse to join a crowd, I reached a momentous decision after a long-running trial I’ve been involved in ended early, out of the blue, yesterday … I’m off to London on Monday evening. Euro 2020 awaits. And cricket at Lord’s. And Wimbledon. And Formula 1 at Silverstone. Quarantine? I’ll worry about that later. No more nostalgia, time to seize the moment. All together now:

He’s coming home, he’s coming home
He’s coming, Colin’s coming home

Stay safe and well, everybody!

Colin Cohen
Senior Partner
Boase Cohen & Collins

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