Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam also announced measures to try to alleviate the burden on businesses and residents already hit by months of anti-government protests.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam also announced measures to try to alleviate the burden on businesses and residents already hit by months of anti-government protests.PHOTO: AFP

HK leader pledges $4.5b in handouts

HONG KONG • Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam yesterday pledged handouts totalling HK$25 billion (S$4.5 billion) to the Hospital Authority and businesses grappling with the coronavirus outbreak that has piled further pressure on the Chinese-ruled city's battered economy.

Mrs Lam said the government would provide HK$4.7 billion to the Hospital Authority on top of a series of one-off payments to retailers and others impacted by the outbreak. Hong Kong has 56 confirmed cases of the virus, which has killed one person in the city.

Mrs Lam, accused by some residents of mishandling the health crisis, said the government would issue one-off payments of HK$80,000 to certified travel agents and between HK$80,000 and HK$200,000 to restaurants, food and beverage businesses, based on their size.

"My biggest concern now is really for us to overcome this public health crisis together so that we could then focus on relaunching Hong Kong and rebuilding Hong Kong's economic strength," she said.

The package will have to be approved by the city's Legislative Council.


Vietnam refuses to let two cruise ships dock

HANOI • Vietnam has denied two cruise ships permission to dock amid fears of coronavirus infections on board, according to state media, ship tracking websites and messages posted to social media by passengers.

Because of the virus, many cruises in South-east Asia are being cancelled, while others currently sailing are being re-routed, skipping originally scheduled stops in China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

"Not allowing AIDIvita's passengers to disembark (in Vietnam) is just a temporary solution to prevent the intrusion of diseases," Vietnam News Agency cited an official in Vietnam's Quang Ninh province, home to the Unesco world heritage site Ha Long Bay, as saying.


Drug shows results in monkeys with Mers

CHICAGO • An experimental Gilead Sciences antiviral drug prevented disease and reduced the severity of symptoms in monkeys infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), an infection closely related to the Covid-19 disease, a study published on Thursday found.

The results, reported in Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, raise hope that the drug, remdesivir, currently in clinical trials in China, might be effective against the new coronavirus. However, remdesivir was previously shown to be protective in monkeys infected with the Ebola virus, but that did not translate into humans.


Taiwan bars entry for non-citizen children

TAIPEI • Non-citizen children of Taiwanese with mainland Chinese spouses have been temporarily banned from entering the island amid stretched medical care and resources due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The move, announced by the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) on Wednesday, reversed a decision made just a day before by Taiwan's Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) to allow such children to enter the island. MAC's decision had drawn fierce backlash from locals, who framed the issue as one of non-citizens fighting with them for scarce medical resources.

The CDC said that children of Taiwanese with mainland Chinese spouses who are already on the island can apply for an extension of their stay.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2020, with the headline 'InBrief'. Subscribe