Dima Lorenz, VP Dwellworks China updates us on the current situation
While the number of newly identified cases continues to decline in China, the focus of the Chinese government is now on preventing a return or ‘2nd wave’ of the virus through the arrival of returnees from abroad. The implemented government measures have an impact on our assignees and on our services currently provided in the region.
For Mainland China
- We have received various reports on long and complex arrival procedures for assignees returning back to their China homes. Different cities have implemented different regulations at the airport, but in general we have been informed of delays of several hours upon arrival before being able to proceed. We have advised our incoming assignees to be prepared for long waiting period and subsequent procedures.
- Beijing: Starting from March 18th, all international flights to Beijing will be diverted to the other 4 domestic airports outside of Beijing to conduct epidemic screening. All people will be required to conduct a check-up for COVID-19 at the landing airport first. Passengers who diagnosed with symptoms will need to take treatment at the landing city before they can continue to Beijing.
- All new arrivals in Beijing, no matter from which destination, are then also required to undergo a mandatory 14-day central quarantine stay at a government approved hotel, and their own cost. Only few exceptions, e.g. arrivals over 70 years of age, children who are under 14 years, pregnant women, or arrivals suffering from other diseases, are permitted to do a 14-day quarantine stay at home.
- Shanghai: Starting from March 17th, Shanghai has expanded its list of Key Countries seriously affected by the novel coronavirus. Incoming passengers who have lived or traveled from the following 16 countries and regions will be provided with transportation to their destination and will be supervised during their quarantine: South Korea, Italy, Iran , Japan, France, Germany, Spain, the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands. This list is expected to increase.
- Guangdong Province. Since Monday March 17th all new Chinese arrivals in Guangdong, no matter from which destination, are now required to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine stay at a government approved hotel, and their own cost. Effective from March 19th, incoming foreign passengers who have lived or traveled from 19 countries and regions will be provided with transportation to their destination and will be supervised during their quarantine.
Impact on Destination Services
- At present, anyone not required to stay at a government quarantine facility is required to undergo a 14-day home-stay or compound quarantine upon arrival. 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 their own regulation on this topic.
- Local and International Schools in China remain closed 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 general expectation is for this to be extended until mid to end of 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 can currently still not be 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 loosening of these regulations 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 remain heavily impaired in terms of service delivery, but are also showing signs of improvement. 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. Most gyms remain closed, as do many playgrounds, malls and cinemas. The extent of these closures differs from location to location, and while Beijing remains relatively strict on these measure 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 with 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 V&I Services
- New work permit applications can still be submitted through the standard online application process and original, face to face documents verification for most applications is currently not needed.
- For new residence permit application, 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 2 months to allow for delays in the reapplication. In Shanghai, the permit is only extended automatically up to 27th April 2020 for now. This extension also applies to the Z-visa application process. The labour bureau has also confirmed that there are no punitive actions due to any delay caused by bureau or medicals centers being closed during this time of crisis.
- The medical centers in most cities have advised that foreigners can only conduct their check-up 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.
Impact on Corporate Housing Services:
- Serviced apartments are each issuing their own regulations to accommodate arrivals from other countries. We are advising our clients on a case by case basis if their bookings are affected.
- Some serviced apartments have been approved to offer home-quarantine services by the government and are able to offer accommodation for new arrivals (as long as they have tested negative on the preliminary screening).
- Some serviced apartments only accept the guests who have been in China for more than 14 days with the quarantine completed.
- Some serviced apartments are currently not taking any bookings for non-Chinese nationals.
- Residents of Hubei province are still not accepted by most serviced apartments.
- For most cases, upon the check-in, the guests are required to provide a health QR code and complete a health declaration form. In some cases, assignees have been requested to provide a location track search on their mobile phone to document where they have been for the last 14 days.
For Hong Kong:
- Compulsory quarantine: A 14-day compulsory home (or other accommodation) quarantine for all travelers, regardless of where they are coming from, has been implemented. This quarantine order is expected to remain in place for 3 months. There are hotels and serviced apartments who are willing to accept bookings from those required to observe quarantine. Dwellworks can assist with the appropriate bookings. More information can be found on this government website: https://www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/inbound-travel.html
- Education: Schools remain closed through to at least 20 April. When schools re-open, they will do so in phases, with senior secondary pupils returning first and younger children staying at home until possibly June. Children have been receiving a mixture of live virtual lessons, pre-recorded content, as well as study links, online resources and ‘home work’ to support their learning. The Education Bureau is allowing graduating students, sitting imminent international exams, to attend the necessary tutorial sessions. The government has confirmed the provision of subsidies to students to help alleviate school fees during class suspension.
- School Admissions: For relocating executives and their families, whilst schools remain physically closed, admissions offices are still operating and accepting new enrolments.
- Immigration: The Immigration Department remains fully operational.
- DW operations: Our operations remain status quo.
We will continue with these updates on a weekly basis. Please reach out should you need further information on any of the points raised above.