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As Covid vaccines are rolled out across Hong Kong, companies are considering offering incentives to employees to encourage them to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Businesses across a wide range of sectors in the city are optimistic that a successful inoculation programme can lead to the return of an active restriction-free life – and a return to normal levels of customer spending and a vibrant economy.

The Hong Kong government announced on Monday that it was expanding the vaccination drive to include another 1.3 million people, taking the total number of residents eligible for jabs to around 3.7 million – just under half the city’s population.

The newly eligible sectors are: Catering, construction, education, tourism, public transport, property management firms and businesses that are significantly impacted by social-distancing measures, such as gyms and beauty parlours.

This adds to the government’s initial prioritisation of people aged 60 or over, healthcare, public service and cross-border transport workers, and residents and employees of aged care homes.

More than 113,000 Hong Kong residents had received their first jab by Tuesday, while those in the newly added groups can now book slots online for either the Sinovac or BioNTech vaccine.

President of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, Simon Wong Ka-wo told the SCMP that he has been in communication with more than 1000 corporate members – owning over 8000 eateries – asking them to encourage workers to take the jab.

 “We are recapping the details from the government so our members make their own decisions about whether they will encourage their staff to take the vaccines,” he told the newspaper, adding that the vaccination rollout will be beneficial to the catering industry as every worker who is inoculated will be exempted from mandatory fortnightly coronavirus screening.

“For me, I support this measure as staff will not need to go through the hassle of doing the Covid-19 tests every two weeks. This can also safeguard the health of staff as well as that of customers,” he added.

Many schools also welcomed the government’s move to include teachers among the priority groups for vaccination, but the prevailing view is that it should not be made a condition for full resumption of classes and that teachers – and other school employees – should be given a choice.

While in the construction sector, Allan Chan Sau-kit, president of the Hong Kong Construction Association, said that its 300 corporate members are being encouraged to recommend workers sign up for the vaccine.

“At present, those who failed to get tested every two weeks are banned from entering a construction site based on the industry’s requirement. But now we are considering to exempt the vaccinated staff from taking the tests,” he said.

Image: Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam receiving her Covid vaccination