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Labour Sec calls for swift cash aid for workers and businesses

09 April 2020

by The SUN

Secretary Law says the wage subsidy program should be launched immediately

The Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong has called for the quick implementation of relief measures aimed at helping employers and workers cope with  the coronavirus crisis.

He made the call as health officials announced today, Apr 9, that there were 13 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, the lowest in recent days. Hong Kong’s total tally is now 974, with 236 recovered and discharged.

Speaking to reporters after attending a radio talk show this morning, Apr 9, Law said the Employment Support Scheme should be launched as soon as possible.
Yesterday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a series of relief measures, including setting aside $80 billion to help pay half of workers’ salaries in private companies up to a maximum of $9k a month, provided the employers agree not to lay them off.

"If we examine the conditions of a particular company or employer before we provide the subsidy, it will take a lot of administrative work - we would have to employ a lot of people to look at each individual transaction history of each employer and that will take a very long time and incur a very heavy administrative cost,” said Law.

“Looking at the epidemic right now, it has impacted almost all industries with some exceptions. It is very important for us to launch the program as soon as possible.”

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In announcing a new $137.5 billion relief fund for businesses and individuals hard-hit by the epidemic, the Chief Executive herself said the distribution of the financial aid will be easy, but there will be an audit afterwards to make sure the money was spent on wages.

“We will put in place a very robust audit (mechanism) after the event because I do not want to have detailed vetting before paying out. The employees and employers are now very short of cash, they need money. But we reserve the power to do auditing in order to ensure that the money is spent on wages.”
About 1.5 million workers, including those from temporarily closed businesses, will benefit from the wage subsidy
Meanwhile, nearly all, or 10 of the 13 new Covid-19 cases involve people with recent travel history.
Among the locally acquired cases is the 37-year-old father of the 40-day-old baby infected earlier. The mother was also infected.

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The baby was held by an infected family friend linked to an outbreak of the disease in four bars in Wan Chai, Central and Tsim Sha Tsui.
Also included among the new cases is a man who visited one of the bars, Centre Stage, on Jaffe Road in Wan Chai.
More than 90 infected patients have been linked to the bar outbreak.
Dr Chuang Shuk-wan of the Centre for Health Protection made special mention of a 43-year-old man whose source of infection is unknown.
The man, who lives in Sheung Wan and works in Lee Garden in Causeway Bay, did not go out much, apart from jogging in his neighborhood, and buying lunch at fast food outlets.

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