Hong Kong to launch new round of coronavirus stimulus measures

The fresh funding would add to nearly HK$290 billion in direct Covid-19-related relief measures since the pandemic began.
The fresh funding would add to nearly HK$290 billion in direct Covid-19-related relief measures since the pandemic began.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong will launch a new round of its virus relief fund, as the city's economy continues to suffer from a recession that was prompted by pro-democracy protests and worsened throughout the global pandemic.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam is expected to provide more information about a third round of stimulus spending at an afternoon press conference on Tuesday (Sept 15).

The fresh funding would add to nearly HK$290 billion (S$51.1 billion) in direct Covid-19-related relief measures since the pandemic began, including cash handouts, tax relief, industry subsidies and funding for hospitals and other virus control policies.

The government has launched two separate rounds of relief funding so far, as well as targeted measures in its budget.

Hong Kong's economy has been battered by repeated setbacks over the past year from the US-China trade war and anti-government protests.

The virus has only further devastated the city's tourism, retail, food and beverage and hospitality sectors.

In mid-August, the government revised its 2020 economic forecast to a record low range of - 6 per cent to -8 per cent.

The city will announce new details about its social distancing policies at the afternoon briefing, Lam told reporters in the morning before a meeting of her advisory Executive Council.

Hong Kong will reopen pubs and swimming pools on Friday after earlier virus-related closures, according to the South China Morning Post, which cited unidentified people.

Hong Kong reported zero local virus cases on Tuesday, for the first time since early July.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Lam spoke just after the conclusion of Hong Kong’s mass testing programme, which tested nearly 1.8 million residents between Sept 1 and Sept 14.

“Everything has gone very smoothly,” Lam said.

“It’s not as scary as people said it would be.”

The Beijing-backed universal testing drive was heavily criticized by local democracy activists and some health professionals as coming too late to be useful – and amid worries it was a possible attempt to harvest residents’ DNA for surveillance purposes.

Lam has repeatedly denied those claims and said the two-week mass testing blitz had been a success.

“Hong Kong is a very polarised society,” she said. “But in the last two weeks we have seen people coming together.”