Hong Kong businesses reopening on Mother’s Day weekend

Hong Kong
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Hong Kong businesses are reopening on Mother’s Day weekend. Hong Kong business leader Allan Zeman says this will be a “game changer.”

Lifting social distancing measures in Hong Kong is good news for bars and restaurants for the upcoming Mother’s Day celebration, he said.

However, he stressed that bars must observe precautions implemented by restaurants. Restaurants can now accommodate up to eight people sitting at a table, said Zeman, the chairman of property developer Lan Kwai Fong Group.  

Bookings have already surged since the announcement of the lifting of social distancing measures on Tuesday. The country implemented distancing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, Zeman told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.”

The comfort people are starting to feel caused the “spike” in business even while they are “still wearing the masks,” said Zeman.

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Zeman called for the development of his group’s nightlife and entertainment district.

Social distancing measures hit the dining and entertainment industry. This is because people had to stay at home instead of going to restaurants, cinemas, and bars. The value of restaurant receipts in Hong Kong dropped by 31.2% on-year in the first quarter of 2020, according to data released this week.

Easing social distancing measures

Moreover, Hong Kong will relax social distancing measures starting May 8. These include the reopening of venues such as cinemas, beauty parlors, bars, and schools.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam pointed out during a press conference on Tuesday that Hong Kong already have 16 straight days of zero local coronavirus cases.

The country has 1,040 confirmed coronavirus infections and 4 deaths to date, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Months of restrictions gradually built a recession in Hong Kong. Data revealed that the first quarter GDP fell by 8.9% and retail sales declined by 42% year-on-year for the month of March.

“Unfortunately a lot of Hong Kong’s businesses rely on tourism especially from mainland China, and that has been non-existent at the moment,” he said.

Tourism in Hong Kong

Zeman said that Chinese nationals traveled extensively in different countries in the past. However, they would not be able to go anywhere yet except Hong Kong if the border reopens.

He said that a new wave of tourists would be “very welcome for most retailers.” He added that Hong Kong property rents are too high and would not survive without tourists.

Zeman expressed optimism about the Hong Kong economy. He believes it will “bounce back quicker than anywhere else,” with the hope that many tourists will come again once the border reopens.

Praise for Hong Kong

Hong Kong tried to avoid exponential infections happening elsewhere. The city received praise for a strong community response, founded on the city’s experience with the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic.

However, the jobless rate in Hong Kong soared to a nine-year high, according to government figures. The coronavirus pandemic has hit consumption as well as the tourism and construction sectors.

The unemployment rate increased from 3.7 percent in the December to February period to 4.2 percent in the January to March period. Meanwhile, total employment fell by around 48,800 to 3.72 million.

“The labor market showed further sharp deterioration as the COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted a wide range of economic activities,” Secretary for Labor and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said.

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