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People's Daily Online

Hong Kong to launch 3rd round of relief measures for virus-hit economy

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 13:25, August 18, 2020

Hong Kong will roll out the third round of relief measures to mitigate impacts of the continued COVID-19 epidemic on the economy.

Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam announced the decision at a press briefing ahead of an Executive Council meeting Tuesday morning.

Lam said she has asked government officials to hammer out the scheme as soon as possible and widely heed opinions of coronavirus-hit sectors.

The move came as Hong Kong's economy slumped 9 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of this year, falling short of market expectations and only slightly improving from a record 9.1-percent drop in the first quarter.

Lam attributed the economic recession to what she described as "triple blows" from tightened trade environment, prolonged social disturbances, and a serve epidemic situation.

The HKSAR government has already implemented unprecedented relief measures worth nearly 290 billion Hong Kong dollars (37.4 billion U.S. dollars) to help safeguard jobs, support enterprises and relieve people's financial burdens.

As the overall jobless rate in Hong Kong remained at the over-15-year high of 6.2 percent during the April-June period, Lam said the second phase of an over-80-billion-HK-dollar pro-employment subsidy program will be open to applications at the end of August.

The second phase will step up aid to elderly workers, property management companies and supermarkets, Lam said.

Under the program, the HKSAR government helps businesses to pay the salaries of their employees. Around 43.9 billion Hong Kong dollars have been distributed to employers, with 97 percent of which as small and medium-sized enterprises, in the first phase covering June to August.

The program has as far met the goal of preventing unemployment from deteriorating further, Lam said.

Hong Kong has adopted the strictest social distancing measures and restrictions on inbound visitors to cope with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of July. Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection reported 44 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total tally to 4,524.

The risk of a community outbreak still exist, Lam said, citing continued daily increases and nearly 40 percent of cases with unknown sources. (1 U.S. dollar equals 7.75 Hong Kong dollars)

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