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  1. A concern group for subdivided flats on Wednesday called on the government to ensure there is enough social support in Kai Tak if it does develop light public housing in the district. Officials plan to build 10,700 temporary flats on Olympic Avenue, near the Kai Tak MTR station. But some have expressed concerns that the new development might overwhelm the neighbourhood or even undermine the district's positioning as a core business hub. Lai Kin-kwok, a member of the Hong Kong Subdivided Flats Concerning Platform, said while his group supports building short-term flats in Kai Tak, the administration needs to make sure residents there are properly supported. “Most of them are low-income families, they may need much of social service to support their lives," Lai told RTHK. "The government needs to [consider] whether they will deploy more social service, or even set up some additional social service agencies or centres over there." Lai added that authorities need to explain to existing Kai Tak residents about the need for light public housing in the area. "They may need to say we'll provide adequate entertainment or leisure activities or places like the public parks...That may help the local residents to know more about the reason and also the benefits of [having] light public housing households," he said. Sze Lai-shan, deputy director of the Society of Community Organisation, also said developing temporary homes on the Kai Tak plot is a good idea because the site – intended for commercial use – is expected to remain idle for some time. “The land has no use for a few years, so can use it temporarily as a light public housing [site] to relieve the pain or the problem of subdivided housing. I think there’s no contradiction,” Sze said. “People always have a negative impression about those subdivided flat people. But we see there are already a lot of social housing in urban areas, and there had not been any problems.” The Kai Tak site is one of eight plots earmarked to build some 30,000 light public flats, which will be made available over the next few years.
  2. Vendors who moved into a new fabric market in Sham Shui Po said while they’re happy with the hygiene environment there, they’re worried that their business will suffer due to its relatively remote location. Sixteen stalls moved into the new venue on Tung Chau Street on Wednesday. They are among 49 fabric stalls that were originally located in the old market on Yen Chow Street in the same district, which closed the day before to make way for public housing. One of the stall owners who moved into the new venue, surnamed Leung, said he’s expecting a substantial drop in business. "The new market is cleaner and much better than the old market. The old one was humid and could get as hot as 40 degrees Celsius during the summer," he said. "But the new market is remote and hasn't been publicised. I'll be very happy if I can keep 30 percent of my existing business." However, one of the customers at the new market, surnamed Yeung, said she enjoyed her shopping experience. "There were lice in the old market. The new market is clean and easy to walk in," she said. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said the new market can accommodate a total of 53 stalls. It said 12 more stalls are slated to open from May, while the remaining 25 will be put up for auction next week. The chairman of the Sham Shui Po District Council, Chum Tak-shing, said he hopes authorities can improve accessibility to the new market in order to boost business there.
  3. Police say they have seized methamphetamine with a street value of around HK$57 million from a convenience store in Kwun Tong. The shop owner, 22, has been arrested and charged with trafficking dangerous drugs, the force said on Wednesday. Inspector Chu Siu-lung said officers raided the store in Laguna Arcade on Tuesday and seized around 100 kilogrammes of meth. "This operation has prevented the drugs from entering the market. We also believe it has hit the income source of the triads and syndicate behind it," Chu said.
  4. A number of cross-border students returned to Hong Kong on Wednesday for face-to-face classes after the Lunar New Year holiday. With a daily quota for cross-border travellers and no separate arrangements in place for cross-border students yet, these pupils are required to reserve a slot and undergo PCR tests before each trip. However, they said they’re willing to go through all the trouble because they’re just too eager to go back to school. 30 of them returned to a primary school in Sheung Shui and a primary five student, surnamed Chow, told RTHK that he’s very happy to be back after a three-year absence. "I woke up before six today, but I normally wake up at 7:30am for online classes," he said. "I was only able to see my classmates and teachers online during the pandemic. I want to come back to school and I'm happy to see them again. It's worth waking up early." The Education Bureau announced earlier that the quota system is expected to end next week for cross-border secondary school students, while primary and kindergarten pupils will have to wait until the end of the month. Chow's father said he simply couldn't wait for the current requirements to be scrapped. "We had to queue up for an hour for the PCR test, but attending online classes for three years was having a huge effect on my son. He couldn't focus and there were no social interactions, so we just hope he can come back as soon as possible," he said. Another student, surnamed Cheung, said he felt a little stressed coming back to school. "I gained more than 10 kilograms of weight in the past three years and some of my classmates couldn't recognise me. But still they are so affectionate to me and it's a strange feeling. I'm afraid to interact with others after having online classes for three years," he said. The school's principal, Chu Wai-lam, said he hopes the government can announce its arrangements for cross-border pupils as soon as possible, to facilitate their smooth return later this month.
  5. Government pandemic adviser Ivan Hung on Wednesday backed calls for an independent probe into the city’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it would be more comprehensive than an internal review within the administration. On an RTHK programme, Hung said such an inquiry should aim at looking for room for improvement, rather than holding anyone accountable for mistakes. “It can include mainland, overseas and local experts... and could target some problems specifically, while having a comprehensive overview. Compared to internal reviews done by each government department, its outcome would be more credible,” he said. Hung said an inquiry could have a wide scope and review Covid testing, contact tracing, and manpower deployment at hospitals, as well as how outbreaks happened at elderly care homes. Legislator Yan Chan said during the same programme that there is no need for an independent probe that could take months to complete, saying experts should voice their views now so the government can make changes swiftly. Hung disagreed with the lawmaker. “Although we’ve been in close contact with the government and we’ve been in talks and giving our views on some decisions, it was an on-going process and we did not look back at the past three years to see what could have been done better,” he said. He also said the outcome of an inquiry ought to be made public so people could give their feedback. Meanwhile, Third Side lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen urged Chief Executive John Lee to reconsider his opposition to an independent inquiry. Speaking to RTHK's Hong Kong Today, Tik said he was disappointed with Lee's comments on the matter and taking stock of the experience, the good and the bad, would only help the city improve its future performance. “We gain the experience from the past and our mistakes. It can make some improvements. It makes our government to be cleverer about the situation and handle future problems better,” he said.
  6. The Executive Council has approved price increases for the debt-ridden Star Ferry, with daily fares set to go up by more than 50 percent from April 3 – though the hikes are smaller than the loss-making service's operator had sought. A typical weekday journey on the two routes, linking Tsim Sha Tsui with Central and Wan Chai, will cost HK$5 for an adult, up from HK$3.20. Elderly people will no longer enjoy free rides, with most instead eligible for a government-subsidised concessionary fare of HK$2. Children's fares will go up by HK$1 on weekdays, to HK$2.90. The most expensive fare, for adult weekend or public holiday travel, goes from HK$4.20 to HK$6.50. The ferry operator, which the government said had been relying on debt to stay in business, had in November applied to double its fares. But a government spokesperson said that's too much for the public and it's therefore moderated the hike to cater for people's needs. “With its accumulated loss exceeding its total assets, Star Ferry has been relying on debt to run its franchised services,” the spokesperson said. “With the easing of anti-epidemic measures, Star Ferry's patronage is expected to recover gradually. Yet the long-term impact of the pandemic remains to be seen. Coupled with rising operating costs of Star Ferry expected, there is a need for Star Ferry to adjust its fares.” The proposed changes will be tabled to the Legislative Council on Wednesday next week. Overall, fares will increase by between HK$1 and HK$2.30 per trip, compared to the HK$1.80 to HK$4.20 requested by the operator. The price of monthly tickets will go from HK$160 to HK$190, with the government spokesman noting that the lower rate of increase will help frequent commuters. The spokesperson also noted that taking the Star Ferry will still be the most affordable way to cross the harbour even after the hike, with fares 30 percent to 50 percent lower than MTR or bus services. "The government will continue to encourage Star Ferry to improve its long-term financial sustainability through a multipronged approach in terms of fare level, non-farebox revenue and support from the government, in order to continue to provide quality services to the public and tourists," the spokesperson said. Roundtable lawmaker Michael Tien, who's a member of the Legco transport panel, pointed out that fares have been going up more frequently and by higher percentages in recent years. "Looking from the passenger's standpoint, where's the end to all this?" he asked. Tien said the government should seek answers from Star Ferry as to how long existing fare levels could remain in place. _______________________________ Last updated: 2023-01-31 HKT 22:36
  7. The head of the Real Estate Developers Association (REDA), Stewart Leung, on Tuesday expressed concern about a traffic overload in Kai Tak, following the building of light public housing there. The government plans to build 10,700 temporary flats on Olympic Avenue, near the Kai Tak MTR station. Speaking to reporters after attending a regular REDA meeting, Leung said developers generally welcome the idea of building short-term housing because there’s a high demand for them in society. But he's worried that the Kai Tai station may be overloaded, as there are also several other private developments on the former runway that are almost complete. "So our only worry is transport - whether it will jam up the entire Kai Tak district. The government has told us that they have some solution to a degree," Leung said. "In this aspect, we think as the government has made this promise, especially that the government has the need for temporary housing, it's impossible for us to oppose this." The Kai Tak site is one of eight plots earmarked to build some 30,000 light public flats. The government is to seek HK$26.4 billion in funding from the legislature in phases. In papers submitted to the Legislative Council, the Housing Bureau said the total sum is HK$950 million less than initially planned due to improvements in construction methods, as well as dropping air conditioners and one exhaust fan from each unit.
  8. The Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers on Tuesday urged the government to increase the amount of money it gives in subsidies to kindergartens by between 20 and 40 percent. Nancy Lam from the federation said many kindergartens are struggling financially because subsidies are calculated on the basis of how many children they have and the numbers enrolled have been falling. "Many kindergartens are facing a loss of students because of the falling birth rate, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and emigration," she said. "Our survey shows that they lost one-fourth of their students on average this year. We hope the government can recognise how serious this problem is." Lam said that of the 229 kindergartens which responded to the federation's survey last December, 60 percent said they would cut down on staff now the government has stopped giving out a grant set up to help schools survive the pandemic. The federation urged the government to provide additional subsidies to each school every year. It's also urging the authorities to relax rules on approving tuition fee increases by subsidised kindergartens. _____________________________ Last updated: 2023-01-31 HKT 16:36
  9. Chief Executive John Lee on Tuesday said he is confident that the PCR testing requirement for cross-border travel will be scrapped “very soon”. Speaking to reporters ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lee also said he hopes to lift a daily cap on visitor numbers and open up more border control points as Hong Kong returns to normalcy. However, he stopped short of giving a clear timetable. Since the border reopening on January 8, more than 700,000 visitors have travelled north, while over 600,000 entered the SAR. Also on his agenda, the CE said, is scrapping Covid testing and vaccination requirements for overseas arrivals, and lifting the mask mandate when the time is right. "We have to be able to ensure that we will be able to pass this winter surge. And when we successfully overcome this challenge, then there will be big room for consideration to see how and when we will remove the mask," he said. The CE added that authorities will unveil details of a massive tourism campaign on Thursday to entice visitors to Hong Kong. Separately, Lee said he will be taking some of his top officials and more than 30 industry leaders with him to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this Saturday. "Now we have resumed normal, it is time for us to go out and tell people that Hong Kong is as normal as before Covid-19," he said. "I have high hopes that my visits will be received well by the governments and the local commercial sectors. And I look [forward] to some fruitful results."
  10. Chief Executive John Lee on Tuesday said he sees no need to conduct an independent inquiry into the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, though officials will review and learn from their experiences. University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung last week called for an independent probe as a way to prepare for future pandemics. But speaking ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lee said his administration had in fact always been reviewing its infection-control measures. Lee said there was no agreed best practice or best way to deal with a situation such as the pandemic, adding: "I agree we need to take stock of experience so we could deal with new threats in the future in a more effective manner. “In the past few months, since we took office, we’ve been reviewing the various measures. We want to make sure that our government is able to respond to new threats and new changes,” Lee added. Looking ahead, Lee said “the best and most effective approach” is for different government departments and the Hospital Authority to keep learning from experience as the epidemic evolves. “Effective measures will be included into their guidelines and will become regular measures. They will also keep reviewing and updating their guidelines,” he said. The CE also said authorities would keep some of its community isolation facilities for emergency use, while the deputy financial secretary, Michael Wong, will be tasked with working out how to make good use of the rest of the facilities as Hong Kong gradually returns to normalcy. The government stopped issuing isolation notices to people with Covid on Monday.

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