A new package of Covid-19 relief measures to support businesses and residents is due later this month, Hong Kong's No 2 official has revealed, with 19 new coronavirus infections expected in the city on Sunday.
“The fresh round of subsidies will focus on people who have been hard hit by the social-distancing measures,” Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung wrote on his blog.
In a separate blog, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po became the first government official to set a milestone for the city of eliminating untraceable new infections, saying reaching that point would create the conditions for the economy's revival.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan says pursuing zero infections from untraceable Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong will make way for rebooting the economy.
Video: Financial Secretary Office pic.twitter.com/FHtDgcel1T
— SCMP Hong Kong (@SCMPHongKong) September 13, 2020
The government had previously announced relief measures worth nearly HK$290 billion (US$37 billion), including a HK$10,000 cash handout to permanent residents, and wage subsidies to help prop up struggling businesses.
Hong Kong’s tally of infections stands at 4,938, with 100 related deaths, after 13 new cases were recorded on Saturday. The Post has learned that about 19 more infections are expected to be recorded the following day.
Meanwhile, Cheung and Chan both made eleventh-hour pleas to residents to take part in the city’s mass testing scheme.
“I urge all residents who have not taken the test, particularly foreign domestic workers and students, to take advantage of the last two days of testing and make a final push to break the virus’ chain of transmission,” Cheung wrote.
As of 10pm Saturday, more than 1.6 million people have had their samples taken. More than 20 people have so far tested positive for the coronavirus under the voluntary scheme, which was earlier extended to Monday.
Chan said keeping the virus under control in Hong Kong would be key to protecting the economy.
The eradication of infections with unknown sources offered the chance of establishing a health code allowing people to travel between mainland China and Hong Kong, stimulating both economies, Chan wrote on his Sunday blog.
The government has so far reached out to 11 destinations such as Thailand and Japan to discuss forming travel bubbles.
With the number of new daily infections remaining low, the city has slowly relaxed social-distancing measures, including increasing the limit of how many people can gather in public from two to four, and reopening venues such as beauty salons and gyms.
Chan said that restaurants, which can now seat up to four to a table, have enjoyed more business since the curbs were eased.
However, Cheung warned residents not to let their guard down, even as the government continued to relax measures, with the winter expected to bring a fourth wave of the coronavirus to Hong Kong.
Professor Ivan Hung Ngan-fai, from the University of Hong Kong’s faculty of medicine, said there would still be around 40 to 50 hidden carriers in the community, estimating it would take another four to six weeks before the city could return to zero new infections on a daily basis.
“As we have reached the end of the wave, it is likely many hidden carriers may have recovered on their own so the mass testing drive may not be able to find them,” he said, adding the results from the scheme were within the expected statistical range.
While he said the citywide exercise would have been even more successful if it had come during the peak of the third wave, Hung said it had still been useful in finding hidden carriers of the virus.
More to follow ...
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong’s malls lay out discounts, promotions and giveaways to lure shoppers to spend and salvage slumping sales
- Crowds return to struggling Hong Kong businesses as coronavirus social-distancing rules eased
This article Coronavirus: Hong Kong government to release more Covid-19 subsidies to those struggling with social-distancing curbs, as city expects 19 new infections first appeared on South China Morning Post