Hong Kong announced HK$24 billion ($3.1 billion) in virus relief stimulus and will lift some social distancing restrictions as the city’s economy suffers from a recession prompted by protests and Covid-19.
The government will spend HK$4.5 billion to help affected industries, HK$13 billion on virus prevention measures and HK$6 billion on rent concessions, Chief Executive Carrie Lam and senior officials announced at a press conference on Tuesday.
The city will also extend dine-in services at restaurants by two hours until midnight and reopen pools, karaoke parlours and theme parks for a week starting from Friday, Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan said.
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 further devastated the city’s tourism, retail, food and beverage and hospitality sectors. In mid-August, the government revised its 2020 economic growth forecast to a record low range of -6% to — 8%.
The fresh funding would add to nearly HK$290 billion ($37 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.
Earlier in the day, the financial hub reported zero local virus cases for the first time since early July — following weeks of some of the strictest measures enacted since the coronavirus emerged.
“I hope that this marks the fact that the third outbreak is under control and people can resume their normal activities in their daily lives,” Lam said.
“Schools and commercial activities can resume. However, we should not let our guard down. We should stick strictly to the anti-epidemic measures.”
Authorities said Hong Kong had spent HK$530 million on its Beijing-backed universal testing programme.