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By: Leona LiuEdited by: Nicholas Shu

Society

Hong Kong reopens border to non-resident

Hong Kong reopens its borders today to non-local residents, ending a two-year entry ban because of Covid-19. The Food and Health Bureau announced the lifting of the ban after a government steering committee reviewed the latest epidemic situation. "Considering public health factors … and balancing the expectation from members of the public as well as the various sectors of the community … the committee considers that there is room to suitably adjust relevant measures," a spokesman of the bureau said. Inbound foreign passengers must be fully-vaccinated and are required to check into designated quarantine hotels for seven days after taking a rapid antigen test at the airport upon landing. The seventh cycle of quarantine hotels includes 44 hotels for both visitors and Hong Kong residents returning from places other than the Mainland and Macao. But as of 5 p.m. today, more than three quarters of the hotels are short of rooms for May. Phailin Xie, a Thai-Chinese, was considering coming to Hong Kong to see her brother and newborn nephew, but decided not to visit because of the quarantine measures. “While it is good news that Hong Kong is reopening to tourists, the week of quarantine still makes my trip difficult, not to mention the need to book a much sought after hotel room in advance,” she said. The government is also relaxing the threshold for suspending incoming infected passengers flights. The current three-person threshold is raised to five passengers, or five per cent of the passengers on board the same flight. Flights over this limit are suspended for five days instead of seven. Hong Kong International Airport figures show that in 2018, the number of passengers hit 74.4 million and the airport handled over 400,000 aircraft movements. But by 2021, that had plummeted to 1.3 million passengers and 145,000 …

Society

M+ museum reopened after a three-month closure

The M+ museum reopened on Thursday as the social distancing restraints relaxed. Residents visited the museum after the Tiananmen satires had been replaced with new installations.

Business

Heng Seng Indexes pressured by the mainland cities’ lockdown as European markets remains stable after French election on sunday

The Hong Kong stock plummeted 663.71 points, or 3.03% today from its previous close, falling to the lowest level in the past three weeks as concerns over the lockdown of Shanghai and other main cities in China under a new round of pandemic gloomed over the country’s economic growth. Heng Seng Indexes opened at 21,688 in the morning and hit the lowest point of 21,132 in the mid day. Among the worst performers of the index, Country Garden Services Holdings Company(06098) tumbled 9.10% to HK$ 36.45. Alibaba (09988) slipped 5.11% to HK$98.5 and Xiaomi Cooperation (01810) lost 6.36% to HK$ 12.36. Concerning the worsening pandemic outbreak in mainland cities, the forecast for economic performance in April is pessimistic. “Comparing the country’s March’s Purchasing Managers' Index with other months, the figure still falls in the relatively bad range,” said Steven Wong, the portfolio manager from the Harris Fraser group. The latest Caixin China Services Purchasing Managers' Index, announced a few days ago, fell to 42 in March from 50.2 in February. The 50-point mark separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis. Wong indicated that the main concern is how long will it take for those cities to handle the outbreak under the zero-covid policy that was insisted on by the government. The effect on the consumer and the manufacturing related sectors will be the first to suffer enormously during the city-wide lockdowns. Shanghai, China’s economic center with 23million people, entered a 2-week lockdown as the city’s daily COVID cases surged to 26,090 on April 10. Consumption and manufacturing suffered a lot from the country’s zero-covid policy. “ We will see much more impact on the mainland real estate sector gradually, since it is the main contributing factor of China’s GDP, the government might need to loosen its monetary policies in …

Society

Singapore: Easing policy on COVID-19 prevention takes effect from today

Relaxed COVID-19 restrictions in Singapore kicked in today. Main changes include the easing of mandatory mask-wearing outdoors that had been in place for almost two years. Wearing masks outdoors is now optional for residents in Singapore, but people still need to follow the one-metre safe-distance rule and wear a mask indoors. “I will still wear a mask outdoors because of the fear of infection,” said Shi Xiaoli, 47, a manager in a decoration company who runs in the East Coast Park every day. “But it's still good that I can take off my mask when I run.” “Our fight against COVID-19 has reached a major turning point,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his speech delivered last Thursday. “We will be making a decisive move towards living with COVID-19.” Singapore has seen a steady decline in daily new cases. There were 4,848 new cases on March 27, the lowest since Feb. 3, according to the statistics from MOH (Ministry of Health Singapore). The week-on-week infection ratio, which refers to the ratio of community cases in the past week, compared with the week before, has been lower than 1.0 for nearly a month in Singapore, according to MOH. “I think it’s the right time,” said Associate Professor Alex Cook, Vice Dean of research at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. “Going for ‘freedom day’ this week would have been a huge surprise, but a substantial relaxation, with room for more steps once the wave ends, is sensible and ought to be safe.” The relaxed policy also includes larger group sizes for social gatherings from five to 10 people and a returning of 75% of employees who are working from home to the workplace. “I felt so excited, can't wait to gather with my friends,” …

Society

Virus or Starvation: Hong Kong Suffers Under Worst Pandemic Wave

Empty stores try to tempt customers with 20% discounts. Many more are closed, their shutters covered in thick dust. The previously bustling streets only see a handful of pedestrians, many of whom have sealed themselves off with surgical masks and even goggles. This was an early day in March in Hong Kong, in the third Covid-19. Hong Kong is suffering from the worst wave of pandemic with more than a million reported cases. Despite being one of the world's wealthiest cities, the Covid-19 fatality rate exceeds 0.5%, marking the highest death rate in the world right now. The city has shuttered bars, closed down late-night dining and schools, leaving hundreds of thousands without a job and little in terms of a safety net. According to Sze Lai-shan, deputy director of the Society for Community Organization, the situation is dire. "As most people can get vaccinated, the chances of dying from Covid are low, but starving to death is higher now," said Sze, whose group helps 40,000 people a day. Hong Kong's unemployment is surging amid the semi-lockdown, reaching 4.5% in February, the highest since September 2021. The government is trying to stem the disaster in the city, with Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po recently announcing a sixth round of the Anti-pandemic Fund of HK$27 billion to subsidize affected employers and individuals. Some HK$3billion is reserved for unemployment support. Eligible applicants must be unemployed for 30 consecutive days to get one-off HK$10,000 subsidies. Lam said to expand unemployment subsidy on Friday to benefit up to 1.3 million workers, covering three-quarters of workers earning HK$30,000 per month. Ronald Kong, 50, was recently temporarily laid off from his job at a barber shop, and had to make ends meet by giving haircuts in his apartment. While he's back at work now, he's deeply …

Society

Hong Kong running out of coffins, funeral industry says

Funeral Hung Hom Company has only enough coffins left for two or three days, Roy Fan, who works at the funeral home said. He said he hopes a new supply from the mainland will arrive soon. Daily cremation has almost doubled because of Covid-19 deaths, he said. “It is a big problem, “ he said. “Without coffins, other procedures will be affected,” said Fan, referring to funeral delays. The government is working with the mainland to increase the supply, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in a press conference on Wednesday, adding that she expected 730 coffins to arrive by Friday.

Business

Jinmao Property Services shares slump in Hong Kong trading debut

Shares of Jinmao Property Services Co.(00816), a Chinese property management company, plunged as much as 36% to HK$5.21 on its first trading day, as China's real estate markets remained under pressure. The company’s shares closed at HK$5.8 today, dropping 29% from its initial public price of HK$ 8.14. Jinmao Service was offering 101 million shares at a price ranging from HK$7.52 to HK$ 8.14, with a goal to raise up to HK$ 759.6 million. The share price was down as much as 6.1% to HK$7.6 in Gray Market trading on Wednesday, data compiled by Bloomberg Terminal shows. "The property services industry follows the trend of the housing market," said Steven Wong, the Portfolio Manager of Harris Fraser, "property services could be overvalued if property sales are weak." China's property market faces a great setback under Beijing's regulation as real estate companies have difficulties in paying debt, such as the default of property tycoon China Evergrande. Jinmao’s business scale is relatively small compared to other leading companies. Its managed area exceeds 23 million square metres in mainland China, including 20 provinces and 35 cities by September 2021, while Country Garden Services (06098) provides ten times more services, covering 644 million square metres by June 2021. Jinmao Property Services’ net profit increased from RMB 23 million yuan in 2019 to RMB 77 million yuan in 2020, while the net profit ratio was 8.2%, below that of Country Garden Services (06098), which is 17.2%. Meanwhile, the company's average management fee was RMB5.4 per square metres per month, higher than the average listing peer RMB3.8 yuan, according to a research report finished in 2022. Country Garden Services slipped 4.3% to HK$38.6 per share today. China Jinmao Holdings Group(00817), the parent company of Jinmao Property Services, which relies on real estate and hotel operations, recorded …

Society

Special needs students fall behind with online learning

On a sunny day before Omicron hit Hong Kong, people went about their business as usual, heading outside to meet with friends and family. However, Lilian Wong Ling-yi, a 48-year-old housewife, stayed home to help her son Nolan with his homework. Wong would often repeat the homework content over and over, patiently and gently. Nolan, 13, a student with special needs, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, is studying in a mainstream school. Wong said she was sad when the clinical psychologist told her that Nolan had ASD but she understood that first and foremost, she must locate an organisation that could assist her. “A private sector had done training to assist him with the development of his sensory integration and coordination, and interpretation of his feelings but I think it’s not really effective as the training time is too short and it costs too much,” she said. “During the pandemic, Nolan cannot concentrate on online lessons since he, as an ASD student, can hardly focus on electronic devices for lengthy periods as he feels bored. He explores other websites instead of listening to teachers, which makes his learning hard to make progress,” she added. Children have been taking online classes on and off for the last two years during the pandemic, which has brought social and learning difficulties, especially affecting pupils with special education needs. Peer contact and social relationships have been severely restricted because of pandemic. Given the importance of peer contact for well-being and self-esteem, this can have a negative impact on children's social activity as less social contact is especially critical for SEN students, who often struggle to be accepted or integrated into society, according to a British Journal of Educational Psychology. The term "special education needs” reflects the broad and diversified group of children and teenagers …

Business

Café de Coral shares slightly rebound from post-2008 financial crisis record low as the group stopping dine-in services due to pandemic

The share price of Café de Coral(00341), a Hong Kong fast-food chain, rebounded 2.17% compared to HK$ 11.98 yesterday as the company announced to stop dine-in services in most outlets. However, its shares still decreased nearly six percent in the past five trading days. Café de Coral and its congee restaurant Super Super Congee and Noodles suspended dine-in services and focused on takeaway from March 1, announced the Café de Coral Group on Feb 27. The Group would also adjust the business hours and modes of some casual dining branches. Leung Ke-ting, CEO of Café de Coral Group (Hong Kong), has publicly stated that the suspension on dine-in can reduce crowds in the store, protect the health of customers and employees, and reduce the pressure on employees to go to work. The group’s share fell as much as to HK$ 11.86 today, the lowest since the financial crisis in 2008. Restaurants in Hong Kong struggled to survive as the fifth wave of epidemic hit the city. It is estimated that there may be 5,000 restaurants that suspend business if the regulations are further tightened, said the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurant and Related Trades, reported by local media. LH Group Limited (01978) has suspended the operation of all its restaurants including Gyu-Kaku, Gyu-Kaku Jinan-Bou, On-Yasai, Mou Mou Club, etc. since yesterday. Its shares continued to drop today to HK$0.85, 1.16% lower than the previous close, after it plunged more than 11% to HK$0.82 yesterday morning. Tao Heung Holdings Limited (00573), a chain of Chinese restaurants, announced yesterday that it will be temporarily closed from today until the epidemic eases on Facebook. Its share price decreased 1.19% to a one-year low of HK$ 0.83 today. The government has expanded tightening social distancing rules to at least April 20. It ordered hair …

Society

Budget 2022: Hong Kong budget aims to tighten financial and economic ties with mainland China

Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po addressed the HK$170 billion budget for the city in today's speech, with considerable mentions on integrating Hong Kong’s economy into the mainland China market and national-level development. Strengthening Hong Kong as a financial centre to integrate with mainland development Hong Kong will enhance its status as an international financial centre in line with the 14th Five‑Year Plan by strengthening its status as an offshore renminbi hub and asset management centre, the Financial Secretary said in his budget speech today. “In the future, we will explore ways to further expand the channels for the two-way flow of cross- boundary RMB funds, as well as continue to promote the development of offshore RMB products, including introducing more diversified RMB wealth management products and bonds,” Financial Secretary, Paul Chan said . The city launched the Southbound Trading of Bond Connect and the Cross‑boundary Wealth Management Connect Scheme in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) in September last year, which allows individual investors in the mainland to invest in offshore bonds through the Hong Kong bond market according to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. Chan said the government is exploring more enhancement measures for these investment initiatives, including expanding quotas and scope of eligible investment products, inviting more companies to participate, and improving distribution. The Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation Limited will study and implement a pilot plan for infrastructure financing securitization within the year. According to the plan, the corporation is expected to issue infrastructure financing securitization products worth about HK$ 35.1 trillion (US$450 million) in the institutional market next year. “On the one hand, the local infrastructure financing market will be more vigorous and diversified, and at the same time, market capital will be introduced into high-quality infrastructure projects,” Chan said. Chan also proposed to set up …