The first phase of this year’s consumption voucher scheme rolled out on Thursday, allowing Hong Kong citizens to collect up to half of the government’s HK$10,000 handout depending on the electronic wallets they opted for.

Those using AlipayHK, Tap & Go and WeChat Pay will receive HK$5,000, while Octopus card users will get HK$4,000 owing to the card’s limited value store.

Consumption vouchers handout
The government’s consumption vouchers scheme website. Screenshot, via

The vouchers must be used on or before the expiry date of October 31. After Octopus card users have spent their HK$4,000 handout, they can collect the remaining HK$1,000 on the 16th of the following month.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan first announced during an annual budget speech in March that the government would bring back its consumption voucher scheme to stimulate the economy, which has declined under the fifth-wave Covid-19 outbreak.

While the news was widely welcomed, some – including lawmakers – argued that it would have been more beneficial for the government to offer cash instead, which can be used to pay rent, bills and other living expenses.

covid-19 covid shopping mall
A shopping mall in Hong Kong on Tuesday, March 2. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Chan, meanwhile, said the distribution in the form of electronic vouchers would be quicker than in cash as it utilises the same system that was employed for the HK$5,000 vouchers handout last year.

The government has not announced a date for the roll-out of the scheme’s second phase.

Hong Kong continues to reel under the impact of its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the epidemic began over two years ago, though it has gradually eased over recent weeks. The city recorded 2,777 infections on Wednesday, the lowest in almost two months.

Strict social distancing restrictions have been in place since January, with dine-in at restaurants banned after 6 p.m. and bars, gyms, salons and other establishments closed.

Unemployment rose to 4.5 per cent between December to February, up from 3.9 percent in the previous three months. The food and beverage industry, as well as the entertainment sector, were the hardest hit.

The government opened applications for its temporary unemployment relief scheme last month, receiving over 65,800 applications on its first day. The scheme provides a one-off subsidy of HK$10,000 to those who lost their jobs due to the outbreak.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.