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The Young Reporter

Society

Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble cancelled after nine months, leaving some disappointed

The Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble was terminated based on differing anti-pandemic strategies, the Hong Kong government announced Thursday.   As Singapore moves to a "COVID-resilient" strategy, the Hong Kong government said it is still aiming for zero local cases.   The much anticipated travel bubble was delayed three times since it was announced in November last year as Hong Kong and Singapore both dealt with waves of increased COVID-19 cases.   The bubble would have removed quarantine restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers landing in Hong Kong.   “From Hong Kong’s point of view, the air travel bubble should not worsen the epidemic,” said Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah at a press conference this morning. “We hope normal activities can continue under the premise of epidemic prevention, so we will continue examining the situation.”     Yan Lau and Feliz Lee, Hongkongers who live in Singapore and manage the YouTube channel “Kong Wife”, said they have been longing for an opportunity to visit their relatives in Hong Kong after moving to Singapore more than a year ago.    “We expected the air travel bubble could help us return to Hong Kong more easily, ” said Ms Lee. “We are so disappointed.”   Current arrivals from Singapore are required to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days, with costs running from HK$7,000 to more than HK$20,000.    “Time is what matters the most,” said Ms Lau. “It is not fair when we are not allowed to come to Hong Kong directly, even though we are already vaccinated.”   Singapore will allow arrivals from Hong Kong to enter Singapore without quarantine from Aug. 21.      Singapore tour plans by Hong Kong travel agencies, including EGL Tours and Miramar Travel, were dashed. However, the travel agencies said …

Sports fans cheer and wave to Hong Kong Tokyo Olympic team during triumphant welcome back parade

  • 2021-08-19

  Snapping mobile phone photos and waving Hong Kong flags, hundreds of sports enthusiasts cheered members of the city’s record-breaking Tokyo Olympic team during a Thursday morning parade through the streets of Kowloon to welcome back the athletes and their coaching staff.   Aboard two open-roofed double-decker buses, two-time swimming silver medal winner Siobhán Bernadette Haughey, karate bronze-medalist Grace Lau Mo-sheung, and the bronze medal women’s team table tennis team of Doo Hoi Kem, Lee Ho Ching and Minnie Soo Wai Yam waved to fans who lined the streets from the Hong Kong Coliseum in Hung Hom to the Xiqu Centre in West Kowloon Cultural District .    "Hong Kong people attach great importance to sports and have great respect for Olympic athletes," said Mr. Lai, who said he likes Miss Haughey very much and was very excited to see her today.    "It's a pity that Edgar Cheung Ka Long, the fencing champion, and Sarah Lee Wai Sze, who won the bronze medal in the cycling race, failed to come. They are going to Xi'an to participate in the National Games." said him. From 9:30 to 11 a.m. the buses snaked along Nathan Road, Salisbury Road and Canton Road, before arriving at the Xiqu Centre, where the Hong Kong government hosted a reception for the Olympic team.   As the buses drove along Salisbury Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, about 100 sports fans gathered in front of the Space Museum, holding up their mobile phones to take photos of the two dozen or so members of the team taking part in the parade. Some fans even chased the buses and waved to the athletes, while for others the drive-by was too quick.   "The bus drove too fast, there were only about ten seconds and I didn't see them …

Health & Environment

Online shopping creates excessive packaging waste, Green Sense says

Online shopping over the past year is estimated to have produced around 800 million pieces of packaging waste in Hong Kong, according to a local environmental protection group, Green Sense. On average, 2.32 pieces and 2.71 kinds of wrappers were used for each item, with some using up to nine kinds of packaging materials, such as cartons, sticky tapes, bubble wrap, and craft paper, Green Sense has found. Ma Ka-po, senior project officer of Green Sense, said at a news conference today that too many kinds of packing materials make it hard for consumers to figure out which ones can be recycled.   Excessive use of sticky tapes, she pointed out, is a common problem. “The tapes are usually used to secure the flaps of cartons, but we found some cartons with sticky tapes all over them, even covering unnecessary parts,” Ms. Ma said.   Of 209 people Green Sense interviewed this year, only 35% thought that Hong Kong has a serious or very serious problem of excess packaging. Last year, 51% said it was a problem. The research also found that only about 46% of the interviewees would recycle packaging materials such as paper and cartons, after receiving the package, but 43% of them would simply throw them away. He Songlan, a university student, shops online three or four times a week, but she doesn’t see packaging waste as a problem. “When I buy clothes online, there may be one or two plastic bags and bubble wraps in the package, and when I buy snacks, there may be one carton and some plastic bags,” she said. She admitted though that the delivery companies may add a lot of packaging. “But it is acceptable for me,” she added. Kor Mi-jing, a student who shops online occasionally, tends to keep the …

Society

Cooking During the Pandemic

COVID-19 has not gone away, social distancing measures remain in place. Some people are finding new ways to share food with their friends. Bruce Zhao and Nick Yang report on how some people have taken up cooking as a new hobby.

Society

Beware of overseas relocators’ hidden charges and delivery delays, says Consumer Council

The Consumer Council has received 20 complaints against overseas removal companies in the first seven months of this year, as the number of people emigrating overseas soared.   Most of them related to last-minute price increases, hidden charges or delivery delays. The government has no official estimates on the number of people who have emigrated, but the latest population tally suggests that there was a net outflow of 89,200 people between mid-2020 and 2021. By mid-2021, the city had 7,394,700 people, or 1.2% less than a year ago.   The consumer watchdog advises people relocating overseas to watch out for hidden surcharges after an undercover investigation by the council found that shipping charges quoted by relocators varied by a great deal.   The investigation involved Consumer Council staff members posing as customers to ask for quotations of the costs of shipping to London in Britain and Toronto in Canada.   Of the 14 relocators that responded, the quoted charges for shipping 40 to 50 boxes to London ranged from $20,000 to $50,000.   Half of them did not remind consumers that the actual charges may be different from the estimates, and a similar number of companies said they would charge extra fees if the boxes had to be carried upstairs, though some were unclear about the charging scales.   For shipping to Toronto, although eight of the 11 responding companies took the initiative to tell customers that the final charges may be different from the quotations, most of them said it was  difficult to provide a precise delivery time and the cost of upstairs unloading.   Besides, most companies said it was difficult to accurately determine when the goods could be shipped and when they would arrive, said Nora Tam Fung-Yee, chairman of the council’s Research and Testing Committee.   …

Politics

Pakistanis with Hong Kong Residency Rights Say Return to City Being Thwarted Due to Vaccination Rules

    Hundreds of Pakistani nationals, attempting to return to Hong Kong, claim they are being turned back even if they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus and have rights to live and work in the city.   According to Apna Hong Kong Network, a Facebook social group that provides information about Hong Kong in English and Urdu for South Asians living in the city, more than 2,000 Pakistani nationals with Hong Kong residency rights approached them for help because they are having difficulty returning to Hong Kong.   “Hundreds of Pakistanis booked flights on 9 and 10 of August, and were sent back from Dubai,” Sadaf A. Muhammadi, the founder of Apna Hong Kong Network, told The Young Reporter. “They were informed at Dubai airport that vaccinations from Pakistan are not accepted by the Hong Kong government.”   “Families have been separated for months... some people have lost jobs because they have been away for too long,” she added.   The Hong Kong government suspended flights from Pakistan, India and the Philippines - all considered high-risk countries due to high coronavirus infection rates - beginning April 20 in its effort to prevent the further spread in Hong Kong.    In recent changes to Hong Kong’s regulations allowing international flights, the Hong Kong government will allow overseas travelers to enter Hong Kong beginning Aug. 9, depending on which region they came from. Overseas regions have been re-categorised into Group A specified places (high-risk), Group B specified places (medium-risk) and Group C specified places (low-risk).   According to the latest regulations, Hong Kong residents from Pakistan can return to Hong Kong only if they are fully vaccinated, and able to present negative results for COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours, and confirmation of room reservation in designated quarantine hotels.    “Only …

China’s Olympic volunteers train for Winter Games in Beijing bubble

  • 2021-08-12

Training for China’s Olympic volunteers is in full swing as the country prepares for the Winter Games while unveiling strict COVID-19 precautions.   Around 27,000 volunteers selected from more than 1 million applicants will be part of the Olympic bubble in Beijing that will isolate staff, athletes and others connected to the event from the rest of the country.   China’s measures are much stricter than those in Japan, which wrapped up its Summer Olympics with more than 400 reported COVID-19 cases.   “The Winter Olympics are expected to be held as scheduled, but it will be blocked to a certain extent,” said Wu Yifei, chairman of the Hebei Tourism Investment Group Co., Ltd, who is responsible for constructing hotels for the volunteers. “This will lead to a decline in the income of the Winter Olympic industry, but the safety of athletes always comes first.”   Hou Peiqi, a student at Hebei Medical University, signed up as a volunteer because she said she wants to contribute to her hometown. “Since the end of 2019, I have received volunteer training on etiquette, skiing, English, first aid and so on,” she said, “Now I'm good at skiing. The Winter Olympic Games have prompted my interest in ice and snow sports.”   “We will show the world China's style again,” Miss Hou said. “Many people in China are now looking forward to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.”  

Business

Cathay Pacific’s H1 losses narrow on higher cargo yield and cost-cutting

Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd (00293) on Wednesday reported a net loss attributable to shareholders of HK$ 7.57 billion for the first half of 2021, down by nearly a quarter from a year ago due to reactivated cargo business and decreased costs amid the impact of COVID-19. Tightening travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in Hong Kong and other main markets caused great challenges to the company, Cathay’s Chairman Patrick Healy said. “COVID-19 will continue to have a severe impact on our business until borders are reopened and travel restrictions are lifted,” Mr. Healy told a news conference after the results were announced, adding that the sudden increase in coronavirus infections in mainland China recently made the situation more unpredictable than previously. Cathay said its first-half losses narrowed 23.3% from a loss of HK$ 9.87 billion the same period a year ago. However, its total revenue for the six-month period dropped about 43% to HK$ 15.9 billion under the COVID-19. Shares of Cathay rose 3.55% to close at HK$ 6.42 after the results, outperforming a 0.2% gain on the benchmark Hang Seng Index. Passenger service remained badly affected in the first half of the year as the revenue plunged 93.2% to HK$ 748 million. Revenue passengers carried dropped 96.4% to 157,000, and passenger capacity decreased 85% compared to the prior year. Basic loss per ordinary share shrunk 46.5% to 122.1 HK cents, compared to 228.1 HK cents in the previous year, the company said in a statement. However, Cathay said it saw a 24.4% surge in cargo yield and only a 0.6% decrease in the revenue of cargo business during the first six months of 2021, which helped mitigate the company’s losses. Its total operating expenses decreased 39.2% compared to 2020, with a 33.4% drop in staff expenses …

“Moat city”: Covid policy raises questions in Shijiazhuang

  • 2021-08-10

Since the beginning of this month, Covid precautionary measures in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province have forced the closure of cinemas, and cancellation of face-to-face classes in kindergartens and tutorial schools. Some events have been cancelled and department stores have stepped up their disinfection routines.   However, there has not been a single case of Covid in Shijiazhuang for more than five months.   A staff member of UME cinema answered the hotline and said that the policy was implemented with very short notice. They do not know whether they will be paid during the closure.   “We are still waiting for a further plan from our company,” she said.   Party officials explained that the city should act as a “moat” to protect Beijing from the pandemic. Geographically, Beijing is surrounded by Hebei province. For years, Shijiazhuang and Hebei province have seen themselves as the “capital political moat”, safeguarding the stability of Beijing.   On August 5, Wang Dongfeng, the secretary of Hebei provincial Party committee, said at a conference dealing with COVID-19 that Hebei would do a good job in pandemic prevention and control, and resolutely acted as the moat of the capital with practical results. The policy is leaving some cinema-goers baffled. According to an announcement posted by China Film Administration on August 4, cinemas in medium and high risk areas should be closed temporarily, but in low-risk areas attendance can be up to 75%.   Kang Hongming, a university student living in Shijiazhuang thought that it was not reasonable to close the cinemas. “Beijing has 23 confirmed cases now but the cinemas there are still open. Shijiazhuang has zero cases but all the cinemas are closed. It's weird,” he said. “ Sometimes the local government considered Beijing first instead of its own citizens,” he added. Wang …

Water World to open on Mid-Autumn Festival

  • 2021-08-09

Water World, Ocean Park’s new attraction, will open on September 21, the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival.   The initial signs are that people are looking forward to trying out the new water rides as "early bird discount" tickets for the first week were sold out in the first 17 minutes after sales opened online at 5 pm today (August 9).   Originally scheduled to open in 2017, Water Park is expected to boost the fortunes of Ocean Park, which has suffered financial losses in recent years because of falling numbers of local and overseas visitors due to the social unrest in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020.    The amusement facility was saved from financial collapse by a $5.4 billion bailout by the government last year. A subsequent $6.4 billion rebirth plan was approved by the Legislative Council in March.   Built near the sea, Water World is the first facility of its kind in Asia that opens all year round. It has five theme zones and 27 indoor and outdoor attractions, including the city’s first-ever surf rider, nine dynamic water slides and several water play zones.   A visitor to the park, who would only be identified as Ms. Wong, said that she would definitely take her two children to Water World as they both like playing in the water very much.   “(However) I won't do it for the time being because I'm still worried about the spread of the (Covid-19) virus,” she said.    “We know that many people are looking forward to it and many people will go there, but epidemic prevention in the water is difficult to guarantee. You can't swim with a mask."    Ocean Park officials say tourists will be required to wear masks on leaving the pools and moving …