JPMorgan gives Hong Kong staff $5,000 to cover costs of quarantine in the ‘COVID zero’ city

November 22, 2021, 9:51 AM UTC

On Monday, JPMorgan announced a policy designed to help its Hong Kong staff cope with the onerous quarantine requirements the local government has imposed on the city, which require all arrivals to undergo up to three weeks of isolation in a hotel at their own expense. Staff members at an executive director level and below can apply for a one-time compensation of up to $5,000 to cover the cost of a mandatory quarantine period, according to a memo sent to staff and seen by Fortune

“We recognize that the costly quarantine measures in place in Hong Kong associated with COVID-19 have impacted many of you with respect to visiting family and loved ones overseas,” the bank’s Hong Kong chief, Harshika Patel, said in the memo. “As a firm, we would like to help and with this in mind we have introduced a new quarantine reimbursement program in an effort to support employees wishing to travel overseas to see immediate family,” Patel said.

The quarantine compensation is only available to staff who travel abroad to see family, not for those taking a holiday overseas, and they can apply for it just once between Dec. 1 this year and Nov. 30, 2022.

The bank introduced the policy just days after the Hong Kong government granted JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon a rare quarantine exemption for a short trip to the city, underscoring the burdensome rules and the toll they’re taking on workers in the one-time travel hub.

Despite having effectively eradicated COVID from within its borders, Hong Kong continues to operate one of the world’s strictest quarantine schemes for arrivals. Hong Kong’s local government, eager to re-open the Special Administrative Region’s border with mainland China, has aligned its quarantine requirements with ones set by the national government in Beijing.

But Hong Kong’s pursuit of a “COVID_zero” strategy has diminished the city’s appeal as a hub for international business. Last week, Tara Joseph, head of the American Chamber for Commerce (AmCham) in Hong Kong resigned, citing the city’s lengthy quarantine requirements.

In October, the Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (Asifma) likewise warned the government that its “highly restrictive” policies were jeopardizing the city’s status as a hub for global business while, this month, the chief of Goldman Sachs complained that Hong Kong’s rules have made it difficult to recruit “global talent” in the city.

Such complaints have often fallen on deaf ears. Days after receiving Asifma’s warning, the government tightened its quarantine policies even further, and scrapped a raft of exemptions that had allowed some groups—such as diplomats—to bypass quarantine.

JPMorgan CEO Dimon, however, secured a rare quarantine exemption when he flew into the city last week. He stayed just a few hours, without being required to squander weeks in a designated quarantine hotel like everyone else.

Explaining why the government permitted Dimon to skip quarantine, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam said, during a press conference last Tuesday, that JPMorgan is “a very huge bank with key business in Hong Kong.” The bank’s new quarantine reimbursement scheme suggests that is a status JPMorgan wishes to preserve, too.

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