Hong Kong’s leader on Tuesday defended granting an exemption for JPMorgan Chase chair and chief executive Jamie Dimon, who entered the city without undergoing the stringent three weeks of quarantine, saying the risks were “totally controllable”.
Dimon, the first Wall Street investment bank chief to visit the Chinese territory since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, flew in from the US and will spend just 32 hours in Hong Kong meeting regulators and 4,000 staff in a virtual “town hall”.
“[Dimon’s] case . . . was based on the interests of [Hong Kong’s] economic development,” Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, told reporters. “[JPMorgan] is after all a huge bank which has important businesses in Hong Kong.”
She said that Dimon’s trip posed only “controllable risks” given that his itinerary was approved “with restrictions”. Those curbs included wearing a face mask, maintaining distance during meetings and not shaking hands.
Travellers from the US, along with 24 other high-risk countries, including much of Europe, must undergo hotel quarantine for 21 days. Actress Nicole Kidman’s quarantine exemption granted in August to make an Amazon television series sparked a public outcry over “special treatment”.
While the Hong Kong government had allowed a small number of business executives to skip mandatory quarantine based on economic development concerns, officials had scrapped most exemptions from last week in a bid to meet Beijing’s expectations in facilitating the reopening of borders with mainland China.
Hong Kong has granted 93 quarantine waivers for senior business executives out of 399 applications received as of November 11, according to government figures provided to the Financial Times.
A number of Dimon’s counterparts at large international banks have undergone quarantine in the city, including HSBC chairman Mark Tucker and chief executive Noel Quinn. Standard Chartered chief executive Bill Winters was granted a limited exemption from quarantine this summer that meant he was allowed out for some business meetings.
Others have avoided coming to the city altogether. David Solomon, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, will this week arrive in Singapore — which has ended its quarantine requirements for travellers from the US — in his first trip to Asia since the start of the crisis.
Lam, the city leader, also said on Tuesday that about 130 Cathay Pacific cargo pilots had been sent to 21 days of quarantine after three of their colleagues who stayed at the same hotel in Frankfurt tested positive for coronavirus.
She acknowledged that the move could “greatly affect” the city’s cargo logistics. The airline, after discussions with officials, has imposed stricter quarantine measures for all aircrew to self-isolate for three days and avoid gatherings upon arrival.