14th February 2020 – (Hong Kong) In a press conference this afternoon, Chief Executive Carrie Lam expressed that the government will apply to the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council for funding of not less than HK $25 billion for 21 measures. She hopes that the Finance Committee will hold a special meeting next week in an attempt to restore the sluggish economy and consumer confidence.
Carrie Lam said that the establishment of an anti-epidemic fund to help local businesses was announced on the 5th of this month. The details have been finalized recently after consulting experts.
In order to ensure the supply of masks, the government will continue with its global procurement and support local enterprises in manufacturing masks, research will also be conducted on production of reusable masks.
In addition, the government will allocate HK$4.7 billion Hong Kong dollars to the Hospital Authority and provide HK$80,000 relief measures to each licensed travel agency. Restaurants and factory canteens will receive up to HK$200,000 each. Licensed hawkers will also receive HK$5,000 allowance. In addition, the Government will provide subsidies to self-financing child care centres. The Education Bureau will also provide funding to kindergartens in Hong Kong. The student study allowance will be increased to HK$3,500 and low-income family allowances will be provided with approximately HK$5,000 per household.
As for the government’s conversion of Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan and Fai Ming Estate into quarantine centres, Carrie Lam said that each affected resident nearby will receive a subsidy of HK $ 6,000 per household.
Meanwhile, a total of 11 Hongkongers were diagnosed with novel coronavirus on Diamond Princess in Japan. It is understood that the SAR Government is studying a number of options including charter flights to send the Hongkongers back to Hong Kong. However, the date is still to be discussed with the Japanese authorities. Carrie Lam said that she would discuss with Japanese and relevant mainland authorities about the arrangement for the Hongkongers to be sent back.
The Chief Executive further stated at the press conference that there are currently 330 Hongkongers on the Diamond Princess, of which 260 are holding Hong Kong SAR passports, and the Hong Kong government has also received request for help from 1,100 Hongkongers in Hubei. There are currently more than 2,200 Hong Kong citizens who are stranded in Hubei province, spread over 30 cities.
She pointed out that the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Wuhan (WHETO) and Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Tokyo are providing assistance, and the Hongkongers will be able to return to Hong Kong as soon as possible after the arrangement for transportation, quarantine and medical facilities is complete. However, she has not indicated whether charter flights will be provided to evacuate them.
The Hong Kong passengers on board of Diamond Princess cruise in Japan revealed that non-infected persons can remain on the ship or be isolated onshore until next Wednesday (19th). The Hong Kong government has been in discussion with the Japanese authorities for several days, but the other party has not given a clear date for the non-infected passengers to leave.
At present, there are 4 immigration personnel assisting the Hong Kongers on board of Diamond Princess cruise. However, due to the constant occurrence of new infection cases on board, the Japanese authorities have not started to let passengers disembark. The government is urged to decide as soon as possible whether to send charter flights to evacuate the Hongkongers on the cruise ship and to arrange for necessary quarantine procedures upon arrival in Hong Kong.