Here is our latest update on the effects of the COVID-19 flu outbreak on our service delivery in mainland China and Hong Kong for the week starting March 16, 2020.
For continued updates on how COVID-19 is affecting our markets around the world, please visit our News Hub.
Our offices in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong are fully operational. All non-assignee facing services are currently conducted as per usual. Assignee-facing services continue to be affected by various government regulations. With the number of newly identified cases decreasing in China itself, much focus is now on measures to contain the re-entry of the virus from travelers from abroad. Some of these measures are affecting the services provided to new incoming and returning assignees.
For Mainland China
- Since Sunday, March 15, all new arrivals in Beijing, no matter their destination, are now required to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine stay at a government-approved hotel, and their own cost. There is the potential that these measures will expand to other locations in China as well.
- At present, for other locations, assignees returning from heavily-infected regions are required to undergo a 14-day home-stay or compound quarantine. Once the quarantine period is completed, the tenants will then typically receive a Residence Pass which allows them to enter and exit the compound as needed. Each compound management or neighborhood community bureau is entitled to draw up its own regulation on this topic.
- We have received various reports on the relatively long arrival process for assignees returning back to their China homes. Different cities have implemented different regulations at the airport but we have received reports of delays of several hours upon arrival at the airport. We have advised our incoming assignees to be prepared for a long waiting period.
- In general:
- Incoming passengers from South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan will be allocated transportation to their destination and will be isolated at designated facilities. Those who are from, or have visited, these four countries in the last 14 days will be put under medical observation at designated facilities and provided with all daily necessities. For Beijing, this regulation now applies to arrivals from all destinations.
- Incoming passengers from the following 21 countries and regions will be provided with transportation to their destination and will be supervised during their quarantine: France, Germany, Spain, Singapore, the United States, Kuwait, Bahrain, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Australia, Switzerland, Malaysia, Norway, Canada, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Austria, Sweden, and Russia. In general, and subject to few exceptions, the travel from the airport to their destination will be arranged by the municipal government. Upon arrival at their destination, the traveler needs to check in with their compound management within one hour to be included in the local grid management system. Those with their own residence will be put under home quarantine for 14 days; those without will stay at designated facilities for a 14-day quarantine period arranged by the local government.
- Local and International Schools in China remain closed for the time being but are conducting online learning and virtual study programs. No further official announcement has been made by the Education Bureau on a re-opening date in China, but the general expectation is for this to be extended until mid-April.
- Some International Schools have indicated that they may open campuses earlier for students who have passed a certain self-quarantine period and have changed Spring Break to an earlier period to prolong the next term. None of these measures have been made official yet and most schools are making individual preparation on these adjustments.
- Campus visits are still not being conducted but Admissions Offices are generally working remotely and are in contact with assignees on applications that have already been submitted.
- Property viewings are still restricted as most compounds continue with the resident-only policy. We have seen a loosening of these regulations, however, with more access and generally speaking, more social activity on the compounds themselves. Some of our housing partners, moving companies, and handymen have been able to gain entrance to some of the compounds to provide their services. Wuhan and Hubei province obviously remain heavily impaired in terms of service delivery. While property visits continue to be difficult to conduct, we have been working with assignees to provide photos and videos of the properties to continue their searches.
- Social Activities: Most social expat and sports activities and clubs remain closed for the time being. Most gyms remain closed, as do many playgrounds, some malls, and cinemas. The extent of these closures differs from location to location, and while Beijing remains relatively strict on these measures, Shanghai has seen more venues opening recently.
- Supermarkets and grocery stores are open. We are not receiving any news or reports on food or supply shortages, except for hygiene masks. Food and grocery deliveries are working well, and an increasing number of restaurants are re-opening and returning to business as normal. We are providing information on English language apps and websites for assignees to be able to order their food and grocery deliveries online. Most compounds support this and help tenants with food shopping, paying utility bills, and other daily key errands they are unable to follow during their two-week quarantine period.
Impact on Corporate Housing Services:
- Serviced apartments and hotels have established additional and individual safety measures and are requesting for travel itineraries from guests during check-in, as well as quarantine release documents and health certificates if guests have travelled from key epidemic areas.
- We have received reports from some serviced apartments that are currently not taking any bookings from non-Chinese nationals. We will advise our clients should any of their usual options be impacted.
- In some cases, guests are required to provide a location track search on their mobile phone to document where they have been for the last 14 days.
- Residents of Hubei province and now also visitors from Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korean are currently not permitted to stay at serviced apartments but are required to stay in special, government-approved facilities.
- Our corporate housing services otherwise continue to be operational as normal.
Impact on V&I Services
- New work permit applications can still be submitted through the standard online application process and original, face to face document verification for most applications is currently not needed.
- For new residence permit applications, physical presence at the local bureaus is still required.
- During this epidemic prevention and control period, foreigners who are staying in mainland China are entitled to have their Residence Permits automatically extended for two months to allow for delays in the reapplication. In Shanghai, the permit is only extended automatically up to April 27, 2020.
- Several medical centers conducting the mandatory medical check remain closed, including Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, and Tianjin.
- The medical centers in most cities have advised that foreigners can only conduct their check-ups after 14 days of having arrived in the city. Similar to check-ins at hotels and serviced apartments, this is regulated through a location track search on the mobile phone.
- The exit-entry bureau has confirmed that delays in permit application due to the closure of medical centers shall not trigger any punitive action.
For Hong Kong:
- Travel Bans: There is a 14-day compulsory quarantine to be carried out at home (or other accommodation) for those coming from or having travelled through mainland China, the Schengen bloc in Europe (reference website below for countries included), Hokkaido in Japan, and South Korea. On March 19, further countries will be added to the list, including Ireland, Egypt, United Kingdom, and the United States. More details can be found on the government website, which is an excellent resource.
- Education: Hong Kong finds itself heading into week 7 of schools’ closure, with at least another 5 to go, until April 20 at the earliest. When schools do re-open, they are expected to do so in phases, with senior secondary pupils returning first in late April and some younger children staying at home until mid-May. Current proposals from Teachers’ Unions suggest older students should be prioritised for the return of secondary schools, ahead of the reopening of primary schools, which could consider opening in the mornings only. We expect it may be as far out as mid-May before kindergartens resume.
- Details as to how this will be implemented have yet to be disclosed; however, the government has confirmed it is unlikely that summer holidays will be shortened since, throughout this period, children have been receiving a mixture of live virtual lessons, pre-recorded content, as well as study links, online resources, and “homework.” These efforts have covered all subject areas, thus ensuring the curriculum is fully supported, from Kindergarten through to Senior level. The Education Bureau is allowing graduating students, sitting imminent international exams, to attend the necessary tutorial sessions. The government confirmed the provision of subsidies to both schools and students to help alleviate school fees during class suspension.
- School Admissions: For relocating executives and their families, while schools remain physically closed, admissions offices are still operating and accepting new enrollments. Some schools are offering school tours on a one-on-one basis, while others are offering a completely virtual admissions process, from online school tours to applications and assessments.
- Immigration: The Immigration Department has resumed full operations.
- DW operations: Our home-finding operation remains status quo.
We will keep you posted on any further developments.
Please note all dates and all travel/closure advisories are subject to change. We strongly urge our partners to have their corporate clients verify the latest, reliable closure dates and travel restrictions with their in-country resources in China and via official websites and news sources.