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Quarantined cross-border truckers increased vegetable prices in Hong-Kong

Hong-Kong faces a surge of COVID-19 cases. And with the city’s zero-COVID policy, its tight restrictions affect the food supply chain.

Shek Wu Hui food market in Hong Kong
Shek Wu Hui food market in Hong Kong | © Christian Alder, 2019

According to industry representatives, approximately 30% of cross-border drivers are currently in isolation because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to price increases for vegetables.

Nevertheless, the city will implement on February 10 its tightest social-distancing rules since the start of the pandemic. Public gathering will be limited to two people. People will need to register to a contact tracing app to go into shopping malls or markets. Hair salons will close for two weeks, etc.

As the city records its largest outbreak of coronavirus infections so far – although below 1,000 daily cases – it questions its capacity to continue a zero-COVID policy with the omicron variant.

A draft report from the European Chamber of Commerce revealed that foreign companies would consider leaving Hong Kong if restrictions remained so tight in the long run.

This weekend, between 70 and 80 of the 300 freight trucks were delayed at Hong Kong’s border after two drivers tested positive for the virus in mainland China.

Hong-Kong drivers need to have a negative test in the last 24 hours to go to China. They drive to the Chinese borders, get tested at a checkpoint and wait in a hotel. But once a driver is tested positive to COVID-19, all drivers who stayed in the same floor in the hotel at the same time are considered as close contact and need to be quarantined for two weeks.

The control point was shut down twice over the weekend, disrupting deliveries.

It caused the prices of vegetables in the city to surge, accentuated by panic buyers. The supply chain went back to normal but industry representatives consider the situation is not sustainable.

Moreover, about 15% of drivers are said to be about to resign as truckers would be reluctant to face risks that their families could go into isolation. Yet, drivers’ salaries were raised to 2,000-3,000 yuan (US$316-475) instead of the usual 800 yuan ($127) for a trip between mainland China and Hong Kong, according to HK01.

Industry representatives advocated for a buffer zone between mainland China and Hong Kong, where products would be handed over to another driver without crossing borders.

In the meantime in the world, freedom convoys, originating from a mandatory vaccination to cross the U.S.-Canada border, started to spread out in several countries against Covid-19 health restrictions.

Read more about Hong Kong

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