Hong Kong economy suffers deepest contraction
Hong Kong’s economy, already damaged by months of protest before the coronavirus outbreak, has recorded its worst decline on record.
The region’s GDP shrunk 8.9% year-on-year in the first quarter, the deepest contraction since records began in 1974, and the fourth consecutive quarter to drop.
Chief executive Carrie Lam noted it was worse than that experienced during the Asian financial crisis in 1998.
“Many economists had already expected a contraction of the economy and weren’t optimistic, but the fall of 8.9% is worse than expected,” said Lam on Tuesday.
Hong Kong has largely held of a mass local outbreak of the coronavirus, credited to community efforts to socially distance, adopt strict hygiene measures, and wear masks, as well as government-implemented travel restrictions, mass testing, and quarantine requirements.
The city’s government has announced massive stimulus packages to keep the economy afloat and support citizens, but the pandemic and associated measures has had a drastic impact on the economy. Last week the finance secretary Paul Chan warned they were heading for the worst recession on record.
Hong Kong has not reported a case of community transmission for 15 days, and is reportedly about to relax the current social distancing measures to allow groups as large eight to gather together in public.
“I do feel very strongly… that the time for some lifting of the restrictions we put on social contacts has come,” said Lam on Tuesday.
“So I would just appeal to you to be a little more patient. We’ll make the decision and announce it as soon as possible.”
WHO says it has no evidence to support ‘speculative’ Covid-19 lab theory pushed by US
The World Health Organisation says the United States hasn’t given any evidence to support its “speculative” claim that Covid-19 originated in a Wuhan lab, as China dismissed the Trump administration claim as “insane”.
Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed to have proof the virus, which scientists believe jumped from animals to humans possibly at a Chinese wet market in Wuhan last year, actually originated in a laboratory in the same city.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the US had “enormous evidence” to back the theory, however they have not produced it publicly or provided it to the WHO, the organisation’s emergencies director, Dr Michael Ryan has said.
“So from our perspective, this remains speculative,” Ryan said.
“Like any evidence-based organisation, we would be very willing to receive any information that purports to the origin of the virus,” Ryan said, stressing that this was “a very important piece of public health information for future control”.
“If that data and evidence is available, then it will be for the United States government to decide whether and when it can be shared, but it is difficult for the WHO to operate in an information vacuum in that regard,” he added.