Health & Environment

Health & Environment

H&M responds to China boycott while slashed by state media

Swedish retailer H&M said it hoped to regain the trust of Chinese customers in a statement issued on Wednesday, after facing a boycott over the company’s refusal to use Xinjiang cotton for alleged human rights abuses. The embattled fast fashion company said they are working with colleagues in China to “do everything they can to manage the current challenges and find a way forward”.  “China will clearly continue to play an important role in further developing the entire industry,” the statement said. While the statement did not directly mention Xinjiang cotton or the boycott, it said that the company wants to “be a responsible buyer, in China and elsewhere, and are now building forward-looking strategies and actively working on next steps with regards to material sourcing.” The response comes as the Chinese backlash continues towards several Western brands including H&M, Nike and Burberry, which have expressed concerns about alleged forced labor in producing Xinjiang cotton and the decision by some to stop using cotton from the region. In a response to H&M’s statement, Chinese state media CCTV said on the Twitter-like social media platform Weibo that the statement was a “second-rate public relations essay”, deliberately avoiding the important issue and was lacking sincerity. It also said if the company wants to maintain its market position in China, it should show the stance. The world’s largest fashion retailer after Spanish clothing company Inditex, which owns Zara, has shut 20 stores in China, said the group’s Helena Helmersson during a conference to shareholders. The closure accounts for about 4% of the total 502 stores in China. Chinese e-commerce platforms including Taobao and JD.com also pulled the brand last week and people could not locate the stores from online maps. Chinese celebrities rushed to cut ties with the brand after the company’s statement issued …

Society

HKBU student tests positive for COVID-19

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) announced today at a press conference that a 22-year-old local male student from Hong Kong Baptist University tested positive for COVID-19 on March 26. The source of infection is unknown. The student had a runny nose on March 25, and tested positive for COVID-19 the following day. He is from the Faculty of Social Sciences, and visited the HKBU campus in Kowloon Tong on March 18 and March 22. He attended at least two classes and a meeting in three separate buildings. According to Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Centre for Health Protection,  the students interacted in one of the classes and thus increased the chance of spreading the virus. Hence, more than 40 students and a teacher in one of the classes have to be quarantined. People who also went to the buildings that the student visited, including the HKBU Communication and Visual Arts Building, the Academic and Administration Building, and the Lui Ming Choi Centre at Sin Hang Campus, will have to take compulsory tests. Ms Jenny Lam, a senior lecturer who taught a three-hour lecture which the infected student attended on March 18, said she is not worried about the situation. “The students in that class wore masks throughout the lesson. There was no class discussion and interactions of any kind,” Ms Lam said. She has taken a COVID-19 test at the Hang Hau Community Testing Centre and the result is negative. According to Ms Lam, the classroom is 1100 sq. ft. and there were 25 students in class on the day. The infected student sat on the last row with a friend while other students were at least three rows away from them. Ms Lam said that only one student who attended her …

Health & Environment

Chief Executive Carrie Lam: “Large-scale vaccination programme is key to normalcy”

  Chief Executive Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor said that a large-scale vaccination programme is needed so citizens can go back to their normal lives at the Executive Council meeting. About 379,600 people are vaccinated in Hong Kong. 243,000 people have received the Sinovac vaccine and 135,800 people have received the BioNTech vaccine. “Hong Kong is very fortunate in terms of vaccination programme. We are doing great in vaccine supply, the community centre for vaccination and the release of vaccine information.” Mrs Lam said. She encouraged people in priority groups to receive the vaccine as soon as possible in order to protect themselves. Mrs Lam also added that she would look into whether the 21-day quarantine restrictions for overseas travellers could be eased. “I am certainly, fully and acutely aware of the pressure that has been put on a lot of people. To be isolated for 21 days is a huge load in terms of physical, psychological and other aspects." Lam said. Lam added she felt fine after receiving the second dose of the Sinovac vaccine on Mar 22. Seven people aged between 55 and 80 have died after receiving the Sinovac jab. However, the Expert Committee on Clinical Events Assessment said the deaths were unlinked to the vaccine.

Health & Environment

Carrie Lam: More “incentives” needed for Hongkongers to get vaccinated

The Hong Kong leader addressed concerns about vaccine hesitancy in her first question and answer session at the Legislative Council today, after seven deaths were reported from Sinovac vaccine recipients. “In order to make people be really motivated to get vaccinated, in addition to trust, more incentives are needed,” Mrs Lam said.  “For example, vaccinators can enjoy certain conveniences,” she said, adding that authorities are considering relaxing social distancing measures for those who are vaccinated. The chief executive also said the incentive might include the easing of travel and border restrictions with the mainland. Hong Kong’s unemployment rate rose to 7.2% in January, the highest level since 2004, with food and entertainment venues, such as restaurants, pubs and karaoke lounges, seriously affected by the pandemic restrictions. “In addition to the government’s efforts and the assistance of experts, the full support of citizens is required,” Mrs Lam said.   “If we encourage people to get the vaccine but they don’t, and they do not follow social distancing measures such as wearing masks, we will be always fighting the virus.”  “We need to do a lot of work to contain every outbreak,” she added. Mrs. Lam said she is unable to promise another round of government subsidies. 

Health & Environment

Increase in online bookings for Covid vaccines as priority groups expand

The Covid-19 vaccination has expanded to include residents aged between 30 and 59 years old, students aged 16 years or above studying overseas and foreign domestic helpers. When the online booking system started at 9 am, the waiting time was up to 30 minutes. Bookings for the Sinovac jab at the selected General Outpatient Clinics of the Hospital Authority are full for the next two weeks. For BioNTech, the earliest available slots are now on March 20. Wang Tsz-nam, 20, who is now in Hong Kong but normally studies in the UK, says she would not take either of the vaccines. “The vaccine inoculation is still in the preliminary stage and there is insufficient data available at the moment. I need more time and information to decide before getting the vaccine,” Ms Wang said. She said she was worried about the safety of vaccines after seven people died in Hong Kong after getting the Sinovac jab. There was also a case of facial paralysis. Katie De la Cruz, a 28 year-old Filipino domestic helper, says she asked her employer to make a BioNTech vaccine appointment for her. “It’s better to receive the vaccine as soon as possible, because I always have friends gathering during the weekend. I trust its [the vaccine’s] protection,” she says. Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai, co-convenor of the Expert Committee on Clinical Events Assessment Following COVID-19 Immunisation, said in a press conference this afternoon that the deaths are not linked to the vaccine. People with cardiovascular diseases are still encouraged to receive the vaccines if their condition is stable.

Health & Environment

Hong Kong priority groups get first doses of BioNTech vaccine today

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: AMALVY Esten Carr Claude Ole EriksenEdited by: Simran Vaswani
  • 2021-03-10

Priority group Hongkongers were given access to the German-made BioNTech vaccine today for the first time since the first 585,000 doses arrived in Hong Kong on Feb. 27.  In addition to the elderly, priority groups include food and beverages servers, food delivery workers, transportation operators, construction workers, property management staff, teachers, and tourism staff. Priority group Hongkongers can schedule bookings at any of the 29 community vaccination centres spread throughout the city, which opened their doors at 9 am.  At the EDB Kowloon Tong Education Service Center, people showed up in droves to receive their first shots. EDB Kowloon Tong Education Service Center is one of 29 vaccination centres in Hong Kong. “I got it this morning and at least for me I've had the whole morning already and I feel fine nothing feels any different I guess," said Priyanka, a local woman on site this afternoon to accompany her father to get his first vaccine.  Both Priyanka and her father opted for the BioNTech vaccine against the widely available Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine, as distrust of the Sinovac vaccine spreads among Hongkongers.  “According to all the available information, I think this is one of the most reliable, safe, and protective vaccines that we can get worldwide,” said Dr Y. K Lo, who also made his way to the Kowloon Tong Education Service Center this afternoon to receive his vaccine.  Dr Y. K Lo stands outside the Education Centre in Kowloon Tong after having received a BioNTech vaccine today. Distrust in the Sinovac vaccine started when a local woman, 55, and a man, 73, died this past week after receiving their first shot. Although Hong Kong health authorities have ruled out the vaccine as the main cause of death, Hong Kongers are not convinced.  The efficacy rate for the Chinese vaccine varies …

Health & Environment

Another Covid-19 ambush lockdown at Tsim Sha Tsui Mansion

Yet another ambush-style lockdown is being implemented tonight at Tsim Sha Tsui Mansion, Nathan Road. The lockdown comes after the Centre for Health Protection reported nine new Covid-19 cases citywide on Monday, one of which was from the building. The case from Tsim Sha Tsui Mansion is a 41-year-old housewife who developed a blocked nose on March 4 and tested positive for the virus the next day. Tsim Sha Tsui Mansion consists of many subdivided homes, guest houses, hotels, stores and restaurants.  Before Chinese New Year, several ambush-style lockdowns were implemented as a way to mass-test residents overnight in buildings with untraceable or growing cases.  In early February, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that all lockdowns would be on hold ahead of Chinese New Year as cases decreased.  Social distancing measures were also loosened after the holidays as the fourth coronavirus wave came to a gradual end.

Health & Environment

Hong Kong authorities probe death of 63-year-old after receiving COVID-19 jab

The death of a 63-year-old man on Sunday after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine will be investigated, the Department of Health said today in a press conference at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The man complained of shortness of breath two days after receiving the Sinovac vaccine at the Kwun Chung Sports Center in Jordan on Feb. 26. He went to the hospital at 1:30am Sunday and was diagnosed with bronchitis.His condition deteriorated, and he died at 6am after failed resuscitation attempts by healthcare workers,according to a press release by Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  “At the moment, the causal relationship with the vaccination cannot be ascertained,” the health department said in a statement. A hospital spokesperson said that the man was suffering from underlying diseases. “Patients with severely allergic reactions to vaccines and uncontrolled chronic diseases should not be vaccinated, or consult family doctors or medical staff,” Dr Ronald Lam Man-kin, controller of the Center for Health Protection, said at the press conference. As of Mar 2, 18,000 people have reserved spots for the first and second doses of a vaccine. More than 254,000 people have registered for vaccinations since the start of the drive on Feb 23.      

Health & Environment

Budget Address 2021: Both private and public healthcare sectors call for more support

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced more funding support for the Hospital Authority in his budget address today, raising dissatisfaction among the private and public healthcare sectors. Mr Chan’s policies included providing more than $5 billion to the Hospital Authority to support the anti-pandemic work, increase manpower and services in the public healthcare system, promote the development of Chinese medicine and enhance mental-health services. “Under the current epidemic, the HA will utilise the resources to further enhance public hospitals’ capability in managing infectious diseases,” HA chairman Henry Fan Hung-ling said at the Legislative Council today. However, government support for the private sector was nonexistent. “The private sector and its doctors are suffering under the pandemic,” said Philip Lai, a pharmacy owner in Kowloon City.  The majority of Mr Lai’s clients are local residents, and his pharmacy suffered a 30% drop in revenue since the pandemic began last year. “I deal with clients who want better drugs and medicines that are not available in public hospitals,” Mr Lai said. “But if the public sector gets more funding, they can offer higher quality medicine. Then why would anyone buy medicine from pharmacies?” Private clinics also suffered a drop in patients due to the pandemic. Tracy Hui, a nurse, said her private clinic had a 40% drop in patients. “I didn’t expect the government to support us. But if they could provide any support, it would be best if they could help us in terms of rent,” said Ms Hui. The public sector also showed dissatisfaction with this year’s budget address. “The policies were not about health, they were about security and IT.” said Dr Arisina Ma, president of Hong Kong Public Doctors association.  Dr Ma pointed out that the budget address only covered paint-by-number policies, including increased isolation beds and mental health …

Health & Environment

Budget Address 2021: Initiative to achieve carbon neutrality and funding for recycling welcomed by NGO

The Hong Kong government will allocate additional funding for green projects in the new budget proposal announced this morning to help the city meet its carbon neutrality target by 2050.  A billion dollars has been injected into funding more than 80 projects that aim to install small-scale renewable energy systems, like solar panels and solar water heaters at government buildings.  The Recycling Fund will also receive $1 billion for individual local recycling enterprises aimed to enhance and expand their recycling operations in Hong Kong and non-profit-distributing organisations to undertake non-profit making projects.  The city has been widely criticized for its lack of effort in recycling and waste management.  “The fund is very important to help local traditional recycling companies to transform into a more workable and sustainable model,” said Lo Kiu-fung, the Project Manager of Designing Hong Kong, a local environmental NGO.  NGOs can also benefit from $150 million, a separate fund set aside so the government can help install energy-saving appliances and conduct energy audits for free.  The scheme is expected to benefit more than a thousand businesses, said Mr Chan. “The application period for recycling funds will be extended to 2027 so as to render continuous support to the trade, particularly the SMEs, in enhancing its operational capabilities and efficiency as well as coping with the latest needs of both the local and non-local markets,” said Financial Secretary, Paul Chan Mo-po. Mr. Lo describes the city's waste disposal situation as very urgent. “We are behind a lot of Asian cities, and people are producing more and more waste,” he said. Hong Kong's major environmental concern is air pollution and waste management, according to the Environmental Protection Department. The city is facing a landfill shortage.  The total amount of solid waste disposed of in Hong Kong's landfills in 2019 was …