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Safety protocols to stay as HK gov’t injects $5.4 billion more for hard-hit sectors

30 September 2020

By The SUN   

CE Lam says HK does not have enough money to help everyone affected by the pandemic

Most social distancing protocols will remain in place after the Oct 1 National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival, despite the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Hong Kong having stabilized, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said.

The city’s top official spoke to the media before the meeting of the Executive Council yesterday morning, Sept 29, to discuss the social distancing measures.

Hours after she spoke, Chief Secretary for Administration, Matthew Cheung said the Anti-Epidemic Fund Steering Committee approved 26 measures with $5.4 billion funding commitment from the government.

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“To provide timely assistance and relief to relevant sectors and individuals, I have asked bureaux and departments to implement the third-round measures as soon as possible,” Cheung said.

The biggest allocation of $1.67 billion will go the Catering Business Subsidy Scheme to provide relief to the businesses and individuals in the food industry suffering from the epidemic and the measures put in place to contain it.

Quarantine centers for residents of residential care homes for the elderly and residential care homes for persons with disabilities were approved for a $730 million funding.

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Quarantine facilities will have a $610 million funding while subsidy scheme to promote contactless payment in public markets will get $65 million.

Among the hardest hit sectors are the tourism industry which will get $397 million, beauty parlors, massage establishments and party rooms which will get $350 million in total, and the transport and aviation sectors that were allocated $250.2 million.

Lam said despite signs the third wave of the pandemic had stabilized, Hong Kong residents should not let their guard down and continue to observe health protocols.

HK people are warned to keep taking precautions to prevent another outbreak

“With the full resumption of face-to-face teaching, it means the third outbreak has eased and has gone stabilized,” the Hong Kong leader said.

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Lam said there was only one local case last week, but that one case could start a cluster that would lead to a community outbreak.

Giving the reporters a heads up, Lam said most of the government’s social distancing measures that expire midnight tonight, Sept 30, will continue. She said the ExCo would make a decision on the measures.

Lam said the Legislative Council Finance Committee approved on Monday a $5.4 billion injection to the Anti-Epidemic Fund and other relevant initiatives such as procurement of vaccines and allocation to the hospital Authority.

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She said that together with a waiver of government fees and rates, total relief measures amounted to about $24 billion. After the relief measures, along with the spending for the latest round, the government has spent about $300 billion.

“There are indeed limitations in our financial support,” Lam said, citing what legislators of various parties said that not all needy sectors received relief from the government.

She said the government will not rely on using more public funds to revive the economy but has adopted a new line of thinking to help businesses and individuals in a new way.

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Lam said the government is in discussions with authorities in Guangdong over plans to use nucleic acid testing on cross-border passengers and waive the 14-day quarantine requirement in order to allow negative-tested individuals into the city.

But she said this must be done gradually with priority to be given to Hong Kong people who are stranded on the mainland who may need to see their doctors here or be with relatives whom they have not seen for a long time.

Macau, which has become virus-free, has just recently opened its borders with China.

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