Hong Kong has approved a $17.7 billion relief package to help households and businesses financially crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said during a press conference on Wednesday (April 8) that he will take a 10 percent pay cut for a year. She also said that the government will cover half of residents’ paychecks for six months, capped at HKD$9,000, according to a Reuters report on Wednesday (April 8).
Additionally, Lam asked businesses to avoid laying off employees. “I do hope employers who are now watching this press conference, or who would read the newspaper tomorrow, will bear in mind that money is coming, so don’t rush into laying off your staff and hang on as long as possible because money is coming,” she said.
The budget deficit will go up from HKD$139.1 billion to HKD$276.6 billion, equal to 9.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), as a result of the relief package.
In the past two weeks, Hong Kong saw the number of COVID-19 cases double, reaching 936, and four people have died from the virus. As a result, the country invoked stricter measures in an effort to contain the virus.
Social distancing mandates have been extended through April 23, and some bars and pubs are now banned from having more than four people together at once. Gyms were ordered to close, along with movie theaters, mahjong halls, karaoke studios, nightclubs, hair salons and massage places. The two-week airport closure has been extended indefinitely.
Although the country hasn’t mandated a total lockdown, schools are closed and many people are working from home or not at all. Shopping malls and restaurants are open, but they are mostly empty.
Hong Kong’s restrictions are being implemented as Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus started, ends its 76-day lockdown.
In March, Hong Kong started using electronic wristbands linked to a smartphone app to ensure that people are following quarantine orders. There are over 60,000 wristbands available for use in the country.