2. can searches be conducted?
3. Certificates of good standing – if and how these are being conducted
4. Other searches – how are these being conducted?
5. Court positioN
In view of the latest public health situation and related developments, social distancing measures have been enhanced from 7 December 2020 onwards to ensure that the courts in Hong Kong (HK) can carry on business as safely as circumstances permit. Court hearings will generally continue to proceed as scheduled. For civil proceedings, greater use of alternative means will be adopted where appropriate, including remote hearings and paper disposal. Sitting hours of court hearings may be changed. The registries and accounts offices have reduced their operating hours to 8.45am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 5pm (Monday to Friday, except public holidays), and delays will be expected. The offices that provide support services to court users and the public will also reduce their operating hours.
The judiciary will continue to strictly enforce preventive and crowd management measures, including mandatory body temperature checks, requiring all people to wear surgical masks at all times unless otherwise directed by judges or judicial officers, and reducing seating capacity of courtrooms, court lobbies, registries and accounts offices by half. Parties, legal representatives and court users who have fever or high body temperature, are subject to any quarantine requirement, medical surveillance or compulsory testing while waiting for test results, or who are preliminarily tested positive or tested positive for COVID-19, are not allowed to enter judiciary premises, and should apply to the court as soon as practicable for permission of absence, or inform the court with reasons for absence as appropriate.
6. travel restrictions – updated
Confirmed COVID-19 Cases
As of 11am (HK time) of 13 January 2021, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in HK is 9,344, with 619 newly confirmed cases reported in the past 14 days.
Travel to Hong Kong
All non-HK residents coming from overseas countries and regions by plane will be denied entry to HK, while non-HK residents coming from the Mainland China, Macau and Taiwan will be denied entry if they have been to any overseas countries and regions in the past 14 days. Currently, travellers from any overseas country or territory are subject to 14-day compulsory home quarantine, regardless of whether they are HK residents. All asymptomatic inbound travellers arriving at the HK International Airport must wait for COVID-19 test results at a designated location.
There is an exemption from the HK government (the Government) in place for certain groups of people, including certified public accountants, partners, directors or employees of practice units registered with the HK Institute of Certified Public Accountants, who are required to travel to the Mainland China to conduct audit work for companies listed on a recognized stock market and having operations in Mainland China. Such persons may apply for an exemption from the compulsory quarantine arrangement, but must only travel to and stay in the area or city of Mainland China where the professional services are provided, and will be subject to medical surveillance arranged by the Department of Health for a period of 14 days after returning to HK. Application for such exemption is open to up to two directors, at any specified time period, of companies either listed on, or applying for listing on, the HK Stock Exchange, which is included in the Hang Seng Index, Hang Seng China Enterprises Index or Hang Seng Composite LargeCap, MidCap or SmallCap Index, who are on duty travel between Mainland China and HK and satisfy certain eligibility criteria. Qualified legal practitioners who travel from Mainland China, Macau or Taiwan to HK to provide legal services that require on-site physical presence in relation to important and large-scale commercial transactions may apply for exemption from the compulsory quarantine arrangement. Inbound visitors, who have traveled to high-risk areas (Specified Places) during the past 14 days, should test negative for COVID-19 before being able to board flights to HK. Also, any traveller who, on the day which he/she board a civil aviation aircraft that arrives in HK, or during the 14 days before that day, has stayed in Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Ecuador, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, must take a nucleic test for COVID-19 with a negative result within 72 hours before boarding a flight to Hong Kong. They must also book a hotel for at least 14 days to complete quarantine.
In view of the latest public health situation and related developments, certain measures have been implemented, including requiring all inbound air travellers who fly into HK to have their samples collected by medical professionals instead of leaving a deep throat saliva sample at the Hong Kong International Airport. With effect from 22 December 2020, after testing they must take the designated transport to the designated hotels for the 14-day quarantine. Also, as the incubation period of some COVID-19 patients exceeds 14 days, travellers will need to be tested again 5 days after they complete the quarantine. On 18 December 2020, the Government also published in the gazette a compulsory testing notice to require people arriving in Hong Kong after 2 December 2020 from places outside China and having completed the 14-day quarantine to undergo another COVID-19 nucleic acid test on the 19th or 20th day following their arrival.
Proposed Travel Bubbles
The Government has been discussing with Mainland China and Macau authorities about mutual recognition of COVID-19 testing results conducted by recognised medical laboratories to exempt the quarantine requirement for HK travellers to those places, and actively working with Guangdong and Macau on introducing a health code which would allow more people to travel again. On 4 November, the Government has announced that it is considering putting in place a quota system whereby HK residents who obtain a quota and meet the conditions can be exempted from the 14-day compulsory quarantine upon their return to HK.
The Government has approached 11 countries to discuss setting up travel bubbles and relax travel restrictions. HK has reached an agreement with Singapore to establish a travel bubble with a view to reviving air travel between the two places in a safe and progressive way. However, such travel bubble, which was originally scheduled to launch on 22 November, has been deferred for two weeks due to an upsurge in COVID-19 cases in HK. The Hong Kong Tourism Board and Quality Assurance Agency have also jointly launched a standardized hygiene protocol to help tourists better understand measures in place across tourism-related industries.
7. Other Temporary Regulatory Measures – updated
The following measures are now in effect:
- catering premises must stop selling or supplying food or drink for consumption on their premises from 6pm to 4.59am the subsequent day
- no more than two people may be seated together at one table within any catering premises, and the number of customers must not exceed 50% of the normal seating capacity
- the number of people participating in banquets in catering premises is limited to 20
- bars or pubs will continue to be closed
- certain scheduled premises under the relevant regulation, including amusement game centres, fitness centres, places of amusement and public entertainment, party rooms, beauty parlours, karaoke establishments, massage establishments, sports premises and swimming pools, have been closed
- for clubhouses and hotels or guesthouses, managers must comply with the relevant restrictions
- the prohibition on group gatherings of more than two people in public places and the mandatory mask-wearing requirement will continue.
Starting on 18 November 2020, the Department of Health will disallow visitors for people under compulsory quarantine in hotels.
Starting from 2 December 2020 for two weeks, other than those providing emergency and essential public services, all other Government employees should work from home.
On 4 January 2021, the Government announced that these social distancing measures currently in place will be maintained for another two weeks until 20 January 2021.
Compulsory Virus Testing
The Community Treatment Facility in Asia World-Expo has been reactivated to admit patients from 25 November 2020.
On 8 December 2020, the Executive Council of the Government approved a legal framework which gives the Government the power to impose requirements on an individual who needs to undergo compulsory virus testing, to limit the movement of people into and out of certain premises under specified circumstances. From 12 December 2020, registered medical practitioners are empowered to, by a written direction, require symptomatic patients to undergo COVID-19 testing, within 2 days after the date of issue of such direction. Those who fail to comply with the direction are liable to a fine of HK$5,000 and would be served with a compulsory testing order. If they fail to comply with the order, they will be liable to a HK$25,000 fine and six-month’ imprisonment.
With effect from 31 December 2020, members of the public can download their electronic testing record through the COVID-19 Electronic Testing Record System after receiving negative test results from the test services provided by the Department of Health, the Hospital Authority and community testing centres. The Electronic Vaccination Record will be added to the system later.
Vaccine for COVID-19
The Government has reached an agreement with Fosun Pharma to procure a maximum of 7.5 million doses of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, developed by Fosun Pharma, in collaboration with the German drug manufacturer BioNTech. The first batch of 1 million doses expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2021 at the earliest.
The first batch of 1 million doses of the vaccine provided by Sinovac Biotech is expected to be delivered to Hong Kong in January 2021 at the earliest.
The Government will also be obtaining 7.5 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford. The relevant vaccines are expected to start arriving in Hong Kong in batches by the end of the second quarter of 2021 at the earliest.
Starting from 2 December 2020, all kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools have suspendered face-to-face classes and school activities, until the Lunar New Year holiday in February 2021.
HK Companies Registry
From 2 December, the HK Companies Registry provides limited public services, until further notice. The Registry will provide limited counter services every working day for receiving documents delivered in hard copy and collection of certificates for company incorporations. From 10 December, the HK Companies Registry will temporarily close the public search centre until future notice. The Companies Registry has implemented special work arrangements of staff and further social distancing measures.
BVI Financial Services Commission
There have not been changes to BVI VIRGGIN’s services offered to HK-based users. Users may continue using services such as reserving company names, requesting for certificates of good standing and conducting company searches.
The Asia Representative Office of the BVI Financial Services Commission in HK has been closed since 1 December 2020 until further notice. Collection of certificates normally retrievable from Hong Kong office may be collected from the Registry of Corporate Affairs in the BVI on request.
On 17 December 2020, the Government sought funding approval of HK$6.4 billion from the Legislative Council to launch a new round of the Anti-epidemic Fund to help sectors hard hit by COVID-19, out of which HK$5.5 billion would be used to subsidize specific enterprises and people in the affected industries.