Anti-epidemic rules put public on edge

Local | Maisy Mok and Mandy Zhang 21 Jan 2021

Social discontent is on the rise and putting pressure on the government to adjust anti-epidemic policies, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said.

With regards to the dinner dine-in ban, Law said various bureaus are discussing with businesses the potential adjustment of opening hours and caps on customer numbers. The ban will still continue from January 21 to 27 from 6pm to 5am.

"Social discontent is rising, as reflected in various indexes and you can also feel it within the community," Law said.

With Hong Kong's unemployment rate at a 16-year high of 6.6 percent, Law is pessimistic about the upcoming unemployment situation due to the current double-digit daily infection numbers, which will affect consumption.

The authority is also studying how to adjust the criteria for the Working Family Allowance.

"Some people when they have sufficient work are unable to obtain the allowance as their income exceeds the upper limit of the criteria. When they are underemployed they also cannot obtain the allowance as their working hours [do not meet the criteria]," Law said.

"So we are discussing using more useful methods to help these grassroots citizens."

Meanwhile, lawmakers slammed the government for lacking an overall plan and failing to plug loopholes in their anti-epidemic efforts during a debate in the Legislative Council over a motion of thanks for the chief executive's policy address last year.

Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said most policies are merely reactive to the situation with the pandemic and not forward-looking enough.

This has made it impossible for the city to reach its goal of zero Covid-19 infections, she said.

Lee urged authorities to communicate more with different parties before announcing policies to plug the loopholes, as well as offer temporary unemployment subsidies.

Eunice Yung Hoi-yan of New People's Party questioned if the government failed to effectively fight the pandemic as its measures are too short-term, suggesting that citywide Covid-19 testing be carried out again and vaccines administered as soon as possible.

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