(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong canceled its largest marathon as Chief Executive Carrie Lam upgraded the government’s response against the coronavirus to the highest level and said the outbreak could extend the city’s recession into 2020.
The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, originally scheduled for Feb. 8 and 9, will be scrapped for the first time since the bank began sponsoring it in 1997. The event involves 70,000 people this year and the government “believes it has to be canceled,” Lam said on Saturday as she raised the response level to “emergency.”
Hong Kong will face challenges on “multiple fronts” in 2020, Lam said, citing protests that have rocked the city since June and the spread of the coronavirus from China to at least 11 other countries.
“More protests and violence may come,“ she said. “An economic recession may also be something we cannot avoid. The epidemic will make matters worse for many industries.”
The government also extended school holidays for non-tertiary students to Feb. 17, and will indefinitely halt flights and rail services to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus originated, she said.
Lam’s comments came hours after she returned to Hong Kong from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. She said she was in touch with advisers while traveling and denied criticism that her trip led to a delay in taking action against the virus.
“The government will continue monitoring the situation and be open to suggestions from various sectors,” Lam said. “The Chief Executive and Financial Secretary will roll out relief measures for industries when necessary.”
Lam also said Hong Kong will source masks and seek help from China’s State Council to increase the local supply, after pharmacies across the city sold out the stocks. In contrast, her government had enacted a rare emergency rule several months ago to impose a ban on face masks as part of a crackdown on protesters.
The virus, which started in December in a seafood and poultry market in Wuhan, poses a threat to Hong Kong’s economy, which is particularly vulnerable after seven months of protest that tipped the economy into recession in the third quarter. Lam has withdrawn a proposal that would’ve allowed for extraditions to China and triggered millions to rally against it, but protests have continued against abusive police tactics and eroding democratic freedoms.
To contact the reporters on this story: Blake Schmidt in Hong Kong at email@example.com;Natalie Lung in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org;Fion Li in Hong Kong at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org, Karthikeyan Sundaram
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.