Hong Kong has had strict quarantine measures in place since March 2020, and for the first time since then, the Government has released quarantine exemptions for those entering from countries outside of China. The new measures were introduced on Friday 28 May 2021 and they allow fully vaccinated senior executives of SFC-licensed firms to apply for exemptions from the otherwise mandatory quarantine measures for their visit or return to Hong Kong. These corporations may apply for a maximum of two returning executives and two visiting executives per month. Returning executives are classified as senior executives that are returning to Hong Kong after travelling to foreign places for the purposes of managing the entities for which they have responsibility. Visiting executives are classified as senior roles of financial institutions that a licensed corporation is affiliated with who are travelling to Hong Kong for the purpose of managing the licensed corporation.
Hong Kong’s current quarantine measures require all arrivals into the city to be quarantined in a designated quarantine hotel for either 7, 14 or 21 days depending on the individual’s vaccination status and the country that they are travelling from.
Under the new quarantine exemptions, eligible individuals will still be required to stay in either a designated quarantine hotel or their homes, depending on the country they are travelling from, but they will be able to leave for the purposes of ‘permitted activities’. Although a clear definition of permitted activities has not been provided, it is understood that this would be meetings or activities that the executive would be required to attend for the purposes of managing the sponsoring licensed corporation or it’s group entities. This includes attending board meetings, meetings with clients, senior management meetings, executing legal documents etc. The proposed itinerary of the individual must be submitted to the SFC for approval and must detail the specific date, time and venue of the meetings. The individual would also be required to undergo medical surveillance which would include being subject to various COVID-19 tests throughout the exemption period. The licensed corporation will also be required to provide an undertaking that the individual will comply with the proposed itinerary and provide any updates where there are changes to the itinerary. The SFC have also set out several additional requirements such as ensuring proper surveillance of point-to-point transportation and failure to meet any of the requirements of the scheme will result in penalties to the corporation and the individual.
Although the new measures don’t necessarily provide eligible senior executives with a complete exemption from quarantine requirements, the eased measures do provide a degree of flexibility to those that need to carry out work on an urgent basis in Hong Kong. It should also be noted that this scheme also provides non-Hong Kong residents with a pathway to entering the city, as only visitors from very low-risk countries have previously been able to enter.
Notes to employers:
If your company is a SFC-licensed firm and you would like to apply for a quarantine exemption for any senior level executives, you must ensure that all the requirements of the scheme are properly taken into account to avoid the risk of being penalised.
“While the pandemic has showed how much could be accomplished virtually, a measured approach to facilitate business travels to and from Hong Kong will create a multiplier effect, stimulating more economic activity across a wide range of sectors”