Wither Hong Kong

Delivered on By Justin Pyvis

Good morning! The Kiwis have officially got with the the rest of the world’s programme, removing a bunch of pandemic restrictions including:

  • limits on outdoor gatherings;
  • QR code scanning at venues;
  • vaccine passports and mandates (except for a few professions); and
  • outdoor face masks, with indoor masks required only during periods of high caseloads.

New Zealand is 78.4% fully vaxxed (total population), which is close to Australia’s 81.3%. Another country that’s removing restrictions soon is Hong Kong, where 71.6% are fully vaxxed.

But Hong Kong’s health outcomes have been vastly divergent to Australia and New Zealand’s – for a look at how Hong Kong went so wrong, be sure to check out today’s Food for thought below.


Reading the tea leaves

Daily % change

AUD/USD

75.1

+0.5%

AUD/CNY

4.78

+0.6%

AU Bond

2.69

-3.1%

US Bond

2.32

-2.2%

ASX200

7,378

+0.5%

S&P500

4,456

-1.2%

Brent (bbl)

121.5

+5.2%

Gold (oz)

1,947

+1.4%

Iron ore (t)

147.7

+1.4%

Bitcoin

42,287

-0.2%

Ethereum

2,974

+0.0%

Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract. Bond yields are 10-year Treasuries.

The US S&P500 fell -1.23%, giving back some of its recent gains despite no obvious, market-moving data releases.

However, oil shot up yet again after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced that “I have decided to implement a set of measures to transfer payment for our gas supplies to unfriendly countries into Russian rubles”, raising the prospect of an embargo.

Locally, the ASX200 gained 0.50% to close at a nine-week high in a broad-based rise, with only the materials sector (-0.39%) giving up some of its recent gains. A standout performer outside the top 200 was Adrea Resources (+36.4%) after its Kalgoorlie, WA nickel exploration project was given “Major Project Status” by the federal government.


Food for thought

All of these countries bought time to vaccinate their more vulnerable, elderly populations. Only Hong Kong failed to do so.
All of these countries bought time to vaccinate their more vulnerable, elderly populations. Only Hong Kong failed to do so. Source

Hong Kong’s government will ease some of its pandemic restrictions from the end of next month, although Chief Executive Carrie Lam made it clear that Hong Kong would not be moving to a “living with the virus” strategy.

That’s because it can’t. When Omicron hit Hong Kong, nearly 70% of people aged 80+ were still unvaccinated. Many of the vaccinated had also received China’s Sinovac vaccine, which invokes a “sub-optimal” immune response, making it less effective Omicron than mRNA vaccines such as those developed by Pfizer and Moderna.

After successfully running a ‘COVID-free’ strategy for the better part of two years, Omicron eventually snuck in and has subsequently decimated the city’s vulnerable population. Hong Kong’s total death toll (per million) is now well above that of Australia’s, will overtake Canada in the coming days and might eventually even rival some of the worst hit countries, such as Italy, the US and UK.

If Lam moved to “living with the virus”, the city’s already-overwhelmed hospital system could collapse. It would also be a point of contention in mainland China – which, let’s be honest, now calls the shots in Hong Kong – where an elderly vaccination rate of around 50% isn’t much better than Hong Kong’s.

But Hong Kong’s problems run deeper still. The mismanagement of the pandemic – its costly lockdowns achieved virtually no positive health outcomes compared to countries that also ‘bought time’ to vaccinate their vulnerable populations – and growing influence of mainland China has caused an exodus of people in recent months, with 42,200 net departures in just the first half of March.

The net outflow for February was 71,354 people, with international moving company Swift Relo reporting requests were up 50-60% from a year ago.

Hong Kong’s institutions were always going to drift towards mainland China but the pandemic has really accelerated the process.

Wither Hong Kong…


Chewing the fat


Bits and bytes

🌊 ScoMo was up in northern Queensland yesterday where he unveiled $A5.4 billion in funding for the Hells Gates Dam, “opening up 60,000 hectares of irrigation across the region”.

🔐 China’s government locked down yet another city after 47 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the industrial northeastern city of Shenyang, home to 9 million people. Steelmaking hub Tangshan was also locked down.

📈 UK inflation came in above expectations at 6.2% in February, its highest level since March 1992 “and the pain is far from over” – the figures were recorded before Russia invaded Ukraine.

🕵️‍♀️ All good, when has Meta (Facebook) ever spied on anyone? “Boris Johnson gets details of vital government business sent to him via WhatsApp, court papers have revealed.”

👎 US President Biden’s approval rating fell to a new low of 40% this week, “as the country struggles with high inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed geopolitical concerns to the fore”.

🤯 From the FT on Pakistan, where current Prime Minister Imran Khan is grappling with the “politics of inflation” (it’s running at 15.1%): “No prime minister… has ever completed a full term in office.”

🗳️ “A survey by the Finance Sector Union found 75% of members were concerned about the cost and time of commuting if they had to return to the office… 69% were worried about catching Covid, 60% were concerned about physical and mental health and 57% wanted to continue working from home to avoid disruption of family and caring responsibilities.”

🎾 Australia’s World No. 1 women’s singles tennis player Ash Barty announced her retirement from the sport at just 25 years old.

💉 Moderna released a vaccine candidate “targeting all four endemic human coronaviruses that cause the common cold”.

🚀 NASA’s “mega moon rocket” arrived at its launchpad in Florida. When it eventually launches, the uncrewed ‘Artemis 1’ mission will be NASA’s first foray into space since 2011.

📉 Billionaire investor Carl Icahn warned that the US economy could be in for “a rough landing”, because “inflation is a terrible thing when it gets going… I am negative as you can hear. Short term I don’t even predict”.

🙄 Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said “nobody who was predicting what sanctions the West would pass could have pictured that [freezing Russia’s bank reserves]. It’s just thievery”.