‘Subsidise sectors affected by anti-Covid measures’

Lawmakers have called on the government to provide subsidies to businesses and workers hit by anti-epidemic measures, in order to tide them over the Chinese New Year.

The Liberal Party’s Tommy Cheung told a Commercial Radio programme on Sunday that he expects the catering sector to lose business worth more than HK$5 billion due to tighter social distancing restrictions, while noting that other businesses, like gyms and beauty parlours, are also taking a hit.

Cheung said the authorities should offer “huge” financial assistance to restaurants according to the floor area of their premises.

“I would assume without government subsidies, quite a large number of restaurants will be closing… Not only that, if [tightened social distancing measures] last more than the current 14 days, the number will be even higher,” he said.

The lawmaker added that a government-guaranteed loan scheme, which provides a maximum loan of HK$6 million per company, should also be beefed up to ensure a steady cash flow for enterprises.

Meanwhile, Federation of Trade Unions legislator Bill Tang told the same programme that the authorities need to give money directly to workers.

“We estimate that around 800,000 working [people] are affected,” he said.

“From the experience in 2020, there are so many disputes among the worker and their employer. There were many complaint cases that the employer got the allowance but did not share it with the employee.”

Tang said it is important to give workers a lifeline as social distancing measures may not be relaxed again anytime soon.

The authorities banned dine-in services at restaurants after 6pm, and ordered the closure of various types of businesses, including bars, gyms and theme parks, for at least two weeks starting last Friday, in a bid to curb an expanding fifth wave of Covid infections.