HK bankers' tough choice: To jab or not?

June 02, 2021 10:21
Photo: HK government

Spare a thought for the bankers in Hong Kong.

The admirable elites in Central have an unadmired decision to make after Hong Kong Monetary Authority “strongly encourage” them to get vaccinated yesterday.

In a circular to financial institutions, HKMA Deputy Chief Executive Arthur Yuen urged banks to identify and draw up a list of designated staff – with a breakdown by department or job function - expected to receive inoculation in the next two weeks.

“Promoting a high vaccination rate is a collective effort of the whole community towards the ultimate resumption of normal economic activities,” the circular reads. “It would also provide the requisite foundation for Hong Kong to re-start international travel, which is crucial for us to maintain Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre.”

Their employers are suggested to give extra paid leave to those who have taken the vaccine, which is a common practice of the government or big corporates.

Like anyone who has taken the jab, bank staff can also dream of winning all kinds of lucky draws, including an eye-popping HK$10 million flat, free shares, free annual pass for transport or theme parks as announced over the past week.

They also know they have to be a good role model in the government’s drive to boost vaccination rate by hook or by crook.

But this would trade way the freedom to choose, which is fundamental to free economy and why this small island stands out from the rest of Asia to become a global financial centre.

“I doubt if I have too many choices,” said a banker who told me he was not planning to get vaccinated, before the announcement came out.

Not because of his health condition, I reckon, but because the chance of infection is low now that Hong Kong has almost recorded no local infection for more than a month.

Of course, no one knows more about risks and rewards than bankers.

If they are feel to choose, it is doubtful if they would be attracted by the stupid shopping mall or staycation coupons as perks for vaccination.

Being able to travel is not much of an incentive either.
While vaccination is a prerequisite for international travel, many would probably find it unattractive to the proposed travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore, for example, which requires travelers to do virus test four times for a trip more than 72 hours.

Even a ferry trip between Hong Kong and Macau does not seem to be as painless as people would have thought and that would suppress any hopes to go outside Hong Kong, not to mention the quarantine many try to avoid.

But if one’s job is on the line, that is a different story. Sadly, that is the price bankers will have to pay to keep their jobs in Hong Kong.

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EJ Insight writer