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Financial Secretary

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Fight the virus together for sooner recovery

COVID-19 has plagued the world for two years and there were ups and downs in the pandemic situation. Every time when new challenges arise, we learned more about the virus. Every time when the threat subsides, we treasured more the time that we could live and travel normally and recognized the importance of social unity in fighting against the virus. We all hope that the epidemic could end soon. However, the imported cases related to infected cabin crew have unfortunately triggered the fifth wave of outbreak in Hong Kong. The Omicron variant has been spreading quickly, leading to hidden chains of infection in the community and threatening the health of our citizens.

Given the high contagiousness of this coronavirus variant, forceful restrictive measures and speedy tracing work are the key to bring the epidemic under control. First of all, we have to take strict measures to prevent imported cases, that include fully implementing the related restrictive and surveillance measures. Secondly, we have to contain the spread of infection in the community. When local cases arise, we need to identify the infected persons as soon as possible to minimise the risk of outbreak and cut off the chain of infection in the community.  There are many possible occasions that we may expose ourselves to premises of high risk, such as social gathering, working or even just staying at a place with someone you do not know. These premises can be restaurants, or any poorly ventilated places with people gathered. To keep a better record of your own itinerary, we should use the “Leave Home Safe” App when entering and leaving different premises, so as to facilitate the focused and quick tracing of those exposed to high-risk premises and minimise the areas affected.

As we can see from recent cases in the community, the wide usage of “Leave Home Safe” App can help protect ourselves and other citizens to the largest extent. There may still be concerns that since the App will keep a record of the itinerary, people will be forced to undergo comlulsory testing when needed. However the fact is, if you have been exposed to high risk premises, taking a test as soon as possible is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the risk of infection of your family members and friends. We could not tell whether we are infected or not merely by our own feeling.  By using the “Leave Home Safe” App and complying with the compulsory testing requirements, we can identify the affected cases in a scientific approach with a view to curbing the spreading of the virus as quick as possible. This is indeed what all of us could contribute in the work against the pandemic.

The wider usage of the “Leave Home Safe” App could help to enhance the speed and accuracy of the tracing work. At the same time, if more people get vaccinated, we could build a large “protective shield” in our community to slow down the spreading of virus and moderate the symptoms of infection for infected persons. Although it is still possible for a vaccinated person to get infected, the vaccine could help suppressing the contagiousness of the virus and effectively lower the risk of severe symptoms and hospitalisation. This could protect ourselves and the health of your families and friends, alleviate the pressure on our healthcare system and avoid the need of imposing more restrictive social distancing measures.

It is the common goal of the society to prevent imported cases, contain local infections, cut off the chain of infection in the community as soon as possible, so that we could resume normal daily lives and travel, as well as to stabilise our business environment. It takes every one of us to do our own part, i.e. wearing mask and keeping good personal hygiene, complying with testing requirements, appealing your friends and families to get vaccinated and use the “Leave Home Safe” App. Let us fight the virus together to help get back to our normal lives and achieve economic recovery. Currently, there are still more than 20 per cent of our population who have not yet received the first dose of vaccine. To cater for the demand for vaccination, the Government already announced that more Community Vaccination Centres and more vaccination booths in Hospital COVID-19 Vaccination Stations will be provided, and related manpower will be strengthened.  Please encourage your friends and families to get the jab.

Apart from the local pandemic situation, we have to face other external uncertainties this year, including the development of the pandemic around the world, the bottleneck in global supply chains, the rise of energy and commodity prices, as well as the adjustment of monetary policy by the US and EU’s Central Banks under continuing inflationary pressure. The adjustments arising may lead to drastic changes in capital flow and impact on asset prices or even the real economy in different places. When preparing this years’ economic forecast in the upcoming Budget, I need to give careful considerations to these uncertainties and challenges and make appropriate response. Although we have seen improvement in market sentiment and economic performance over the past seven months or so, it is unfortunate that the fifth wave of outbreak has sparked just before the Chinese New Year, hitting hard on breadwinners and merchants of various sectors.  As this will inevitably affect the overall economy, we need to make dynamic assessment on how to deploy and allocate resources to provide suitable support to those affected.

9 January, 2022

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