Citadel joins JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman to reimburse Hong Kong staff for hotel quarantine stays

JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, coronavirus, highest risk category, temporarily suspended flights to Hong Kong

Ken Griffin’s Citadel is offering its Hong Kong employees up to HK$40,000 (US$5,100) for hotel quarantine stays, the latest financial firm to try to help its staff navigate the city’s controversial zero-Covid policy.

The American asset manager and securities firm will provide reimbursement to its more than 200 employees in the city for the personal costs of hotel quarantine following a single trip to see friends or family or simply to just get away between now and September 30, 2022, according to people familiar with the matter.

Citadel is also allowing its staff to rollover up to 10 days of holidays from this year into 2022, the people said.

JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs also have announced plans to reimburse their staff as the city’s restrictive quarantine policy has weighed on efforts by businesses to recruit and retain employees.

Hong Kong’s government has faced sharp criticism from the financial community over its highly restrictive strategy to stem the spread of Covid-19, with nine out of 10 members of the Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association saying last month that they were finding it difficult to continue to operate in the city because of the quarantine measures.

Fully vaccinated travellers from countries deemed “high risk”, including the United States and the United Kingdom, must spend up to 21 days in hotel quarantine. The cost ranged as high as HK$10,000 a night for a non-suite room at an approved quarantine hotel in a recent spot check.

Health officials said on Monday that they would add all countries with reported cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant to the highest risk category. The city has three confirmed infections from inbound travellers who were undergoing quarantine.

Hong Kong has maintained its zero-Covid policy as it hopes to reopen the border with mainland China for quarantine-free travel.

Last week, authorities said the city had met basic requirements necessary to reopen the border, but still must tighten some of its Covid-19 controls to resume quarantine-free travel.

The city’s strict stance on quarantines has caused friction with a number of businesses beyond banking.

In November, parcel delivery giant FedEx shut down its Hong Kong pilot base, blaming the city’s coronavirus policy.

British Airways temporarily suspended flights to Hong Kong recently after an aircrew member tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival in the city and most of the flight crew was sent to Penny’s Bay quarantine centre on Lantau Island.

The reimbursement programme by Citadel comes just days after Griffin, the company’s billionaire founder and CEO, outbid a group of cryptocurrency investors for the last privately held first printing of the US Constitution.

Griffin plans to loan the historic document to an Arkansas art museum built by Alice Walton, an heir to the Walmart fortune.

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