Hong Kong reports zero Covid-19 cases, but unemployment rate highest in nine years


  • AseanPlus News
  • Monday, 20 Apr 2020

This aerial photo shows people gathering at a beach in Hong Kong on Sunday (April 19). Hong Kong recorded zero new coronavirus cases on Monday (April 20) for the first time since early March, health authorities said, though they urged residents to maintain strict hygiene and social distancing practices and avoid unnecessary travel. - AFP

HONG KONG: Hong Kong recorded zero new coronavirus cases on Monday (April 20) for the first time since early March, health authorities said, though they urged residents to maintain strict hygiene and social distancing practices and avoid unnecessary travel.

The Chinese-ruled city, which has avoided the exponential increases seen in other parts of the world, has confirmed 1,025 total cases and four deaths since the outbreak began in January. The previous day with no recorded cases was March 5.

While schools remain closed, many people are working from home and shopping malls and restaurants are less busy, Hong Kong has stopped short of a full lockdown like those imposed in other cities such as London and New York.

Almost all Hong Kongers wear masks, office buildings, commercial centres and public institutions run temperature checks, and free sanitizer dispensers are widely available.

Hong Kong banned public gatherings of more than four people for 14 days from March 29 and later extended that restriction until April 23.

Game centres, gyms, cinemas and other places of amusement and public entertainment are also closed and foreign arrivals at the airport are suspended indefinitely.

However, Hong Kong's unemployment rate rose to the highest in more than nine years in the first quarter as the coronavirus dealt a sharp shock to an economy already in recession.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate in January-March rose to 4.2% from 3.7% in previous three-month period, government data showed on Monday.

The underemployment rate hit nearly a decade high of 2.1%, from 1.5% in the previous three-month rolling period.

Total employment fell by around 48,800 to 3.72 million.

The year-on-year declines in total employment and the labour force widened further to 3.6% and 2.2% respectively, both the largest on record.

The unemployment rate in the consumption- and tourism-related sectors combined soared to 6.8%, the highest since the global financial crisis a decade ago.

"The labour market will continue to face significant pressure from the economic fallout arising from the pandemic in the near term," Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said in a statement.

Some 10,400 retail employees are expected to have lose their jobs in February-May, about 4% of the 260,000 workforce in the retail sector, Hong Kong Retail Management Association said.

Hong Kong's economy contracted for the first time in a decade in 2019 due to often-violent anti-government protests and the US-China trade war. - Reuters
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