Here is our latest update on the effects of the Covid-19 flu outbreak on our operations and service delivery for the week of March 8, 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, although we are seeing general signs of improvement.
For Mainland China:
Impact on Destination Services:
- 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 it to be extended until after the Spring Break.
- Some International Schools have indicated that they may open campuses earlier for students who have passed a certain self-quarantine period and are also debating to change Spring Break to an earlier period to prolong the next term. None of these measures have been made official yet.
- Campus visits are currently not being conducted, but Admissions Offices are generally working and are in contact with assignees on applications that have already been submitted. Admission Offices are also taking in new applications for the next school year, starting in August 2020.
- Property viewings are still restricted as most compounds continue with the resident-only policy. We have, however, seen some loosening of these regulations, with more access and, generally speaking, more social activity on the compounds themselves. Services in Wuhan and Hubei province obviously remain heavily impaired. 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.
- 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.
- Social activities at many of the popular expatriate compounds are increasing, with more families having returned to Shanghai and Beijing. Families returning from infected regions are generally requested to undergo a 14-day home-stay or compound quarantine. Once the quarantine period is completed, the tenants will typically receive a Residence Pass, which allows them to enter and exit the compound as needed. Management offices continue to check temperatures each time residents are entering the compound. However, each compound management or neighborhood community bureau is entitled to draw up its own regulation on this topic.
- The same temperate checks apply for parks, stores, and other public venues. Usage of hygiene masks is still the social norm and mandatory on all public transport.
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 traveled from key epidemic areas.
- 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 Korea 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. 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.
- All applicants who have traveled to virus-affected countries such as South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan in the 14 days prior to their arrival in Shanghai, Beijing, or Guangzhou must undergo 14-day quarantine at home or in designated places for health observation.
- 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:
- Education: Hong Kong finds itself heading into week six of school closure, with at least another five to go, that is, until April 20. When schools do re-open, they are expected to do so in phases. 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 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 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 announced services to the public have resumed as normal as of this past Monday, March 2. Cross border travel measures with the mainland remain in place.
- DW operations: Our home-finding operation remains status quo, and we are beginning to see relocating executives rebook travel as travel bans are slowly being lifted in light of the perceived containment in the city.
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.