The Hong Kong government’s plan to give a one-off HK$5,000 subsidy to residents diagnosed with Covid-19 has been criticised as sending the wrong message to the public. The scheme – which will not be means tested – was announced on Sunday as the city saw the highest number of daily new infections in over three months.

“Is this basically encouraging the public to get infected?” said democrat Roy Kwong on Facebook on Sunday.

Coronavirus virus covid-19 testing
File photo: GovHK.

According to RTHK, Gabriel Leung – the dean of the medicine faculty at the University of Hong Kong – said that the subsidy should only be given to people whose jobs are not secure, such as taxi drivers, or else it would twist the original purpose.

Meanwhile, activist Jeffrey Ngo tweeted that the fund sounded like a reward: “So now, if you catch this lethal disease that has already killed over 1.38 million people worldwide, you get paid by the Hong Kong government: precisely not enough for meaningful relief but just enough to give the impression of a reward.”

‘Unwise’ to get infected deliberately

Officials defended the plan later on Sunday. “I can’t see anyone who would abuse this scheme because this virus could be mild or serious,” said Labour and Welfare Bureau Under Secretary Ho Kai-ming, according to RTHK.

The head of the Communicable Diseases Branch of the Centre for Health Protection Chuang Shuk-kwan said it would be unwise to get infected deliberately: “Your close contacts and family might have severe symptoms even if you are asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms, it would be unwise to get infected just to get the subsidy.”

Covid-19 coronavirus virus testing
Government personnel collect sample for coronavirus testing. Photo: GovHK.

Hong Kong reported 68 confirmed cases on Sunday, with 46 of those related to clusters at dance classes and clubs. The government gazetted a compulsory testing notice to anyone who had been to the 14 named dance premises from November 1 to 21 to take a Covid-19 test by Tuesday.

Seven mobile testing stations and specimen bottle distribution points have been set up in Tseun Wan, Sai Kung, and Tai Po on Monday to help identify cases in the community.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.