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Thursday, February 20, 2020, 23:11
HK govt proposes to raise virus relief outlay to HK$30 billion
By Gu Mengyan
Thursday, February 20, 2020, 23:11 By Gu Mengyan

A man wearing a mask takes a photo before the city skyline in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong on Jan 25, 2020. (DALE DE LA REY / AFP)

HONG KONG - The Hong Kong government proposed on Thursday to increase its relief package from HK$28 billion to HK$30 billion (US$3.85 billion) to better help industries and individuals hit by the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

The proposal comes on a day the SAR government announced to extend the work-from-home arrangement for civil servants to March 1 to lower the risks of the community spread of the novel coronavirus. 

A total of HK$16.9 billion is earmarked for cash subsidies to retailers, restaurants, transport operators, exhibition organizers, technology start-ups, students, travel agents and some others

The massive handouts are aimed at providing direct cash assistance to enterprises and individuals and enhancing the capabilities to contain the spread of the disease, according to a government proposal filed to the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council. The proposal will be scrutinized by the committee on Friday.

READ MORE: Virus: Govt mulls amendments to support special outlay

A total of HK$16.9 billion is earmarked for cash subsidies to retailers, restaurants, transport operators, exhibition organizers, technology start-ups, students, travel agents and some others. 

The share of the payout to the battered retail sector, employing about 270,000 workers, will amount to HK$5.6 billion. Public transport providers, which is hit by a plunge in passengers traffic owing to the drop of social activities and the tourist arrivals caused by border closures, will receive HK$3.23 billion.

Another major chunk of the anti-epidemic fund, HK$10.19 billion, will go to the front line professionals and workers in the fight against the disease. The Hospital Authority will get the biggest share of HK$4.7 billion to pay their medical staff, purchase protective gears and enhance clinical tests.

To help ease the shortage, the government will spend HK$1 billion on a global search for protective gear and another HK$1.5 billion for local surgical mask producers to increase capacity.

ALSO READ: Hong Kong jobless rate rises to 3.4%, highest since 2016

The government has budgeted HK$50 million for the purchase of electronic devices to monitor the movements of people under home quarantine for exposure to the risk of catching the coronavirus disease. 

The government is also offering doles to property management personnel, security guards, construction workers and cleaners who are facing the risk of being infected by the virus in the course of their jobs. 

jefferygu@chinadailyhk.com


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