The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) has announced it will postpone the city’s annual book fair and three other major public events this month amid mounting concerns over a worsening Covid-19 crisis.
The city’s event organiser said on Monday the book fair, which was expected to start on Wednesday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, and three events slated for later this month – Sports and Leisure Expo, Education and Careers Expo and Entrepreneur Day – would be rescheduled.
TDC said it had discussed the recent resurgence of coronavirus cases with the government over the weekend and was advised to postpone the events.
“The health of Hong Kong people is a priority,” it said. “Given the latest epidemic situation and the government reimposing certain social-distancing restrictions on public health grounds, the book fair … should be avoided.”
The organiser said given the huge number of people involved in these public events, it would be difficult to conduct contact tracing and undertake subsequent disease-control measures in case virus infections emerged from these venues.
The book fair last year attracted 980,000 visitors over its seven-day run.
TDC assured that the government would continue to support exhibitors under the anti-epidemic fund when the fairs were rescheduled to a later date.
“The government and TDC understand the disappointment of the industry sector and exhibitors as well as the public with the postponement of this major annual event,” it said.
TDC said it would be in contact with various parties to discuss rescheduling arrangements, and details would be available in due course.
Holders of purchased tickets of the book fair can request a refund upon presentation of the passes. Details on this will be announced on the book fair’s website.
The Chamber of Hong Kong Computer Industry also announced on Monday it would postpone the Hong Kong Computer & Communications Festival, and the eHealth & Sports Tech Expo, that were scheduled to be held from August 21 to 24. The chamber said it would make appropriate alternative arrangements after discussing with various stakeholders.
The computer festival is the city’s largest exhibition for communications and electronic products.
Audiotechnique, organiser of AV Show which showcases the latest audio and visual technology, also announced it would defer the event, which was expected to be held from August 7 to 9.
On Entrepreneur Day on July 16 and 17, a number of virtual seminars will be broadcast live as scheduled, while arrangements for the exhibition portion will be announced later.
“With safety as a priority, TDC will continue to monitor the situation and communicate with stakeholders,” it said.
The decisions came as the city is battling a third wave of coronavirus infections, described by health officials as the most severe phase so far of the public health crisis.
Health authorities had warned that the pandemic situation in the city was “getting a bit out of hand” with dozens of new cases emerging every day.
Hong Kong confirmed 38 new cases on Sunday, 30 of them being local infections. As of Monday at noon, the city recorded 1,469 cases.
One prospective participant, Humming Publishing, said on its webpage it received news that the book fair had been postponed. It also said it would turn the exhibition into an online one and asked readers to keep track of its company news.
Last week, more than 50 exhibitors urged authorities to postpone or suspend the annual event, citing concerns over the new wave of viral infections.
Bus operator KMB also announced it would pull out of the event.
Jimmy Pang Chi-ming, spokesman of 2020 Hong Kong Book Fair Concern Group, said the postponement was the best arrangement in view of the worsening health crisis.
“The revenue from the book fair usually accounted for about half of local publishers’ earnings. The postponement will hit us financially, but public health should come first. I hope the government will continue to extend its subsidies, capped at HK$100,000 (US$13,000) each, for exhibitors,” he said.
Retail sales of books, newspapers, stationery and gifts plunged 40 per cent in April year on year, official data showed.
Jim Yu, chief editor of Idea Publication, another prospective exhibitor, also agreed the postponement was the best arrangement for everybody. “Public health and safety are the most important things. We shouldn’t take risks,” he said.
However, he admitted the move would cause a substantial loss to his company as it had planned to sell more than 10,000 books and other gifts, such as T-shirt and stuffed dolls, at the fair.
“We’ve spent a lot on preparation work, such as for logistic arrangements and the transportation of goods. The financial loss is big to us, but it’s better than taking the risk,” he said.
The number of exhibitors expected to join the fair this year has dipped by about 15 per cent, to 585 participants from last year’s 686. This year’s theme, “Words to Warm the Heart”, focuses on motivational and inspirational reading.
Hong Kong Jockey Club also announced it would postpone the resumption of the Mark Six draws until further notice. The lucky draws, suspended since February 1, were planned to be resumed on July 21.
The Animation-Comic-Game Hong Kong, expected to be held from July 24 to 27 at the convention and exhibition centre, has also been postponed until further notice. The four-day event aims to attract fans of animation, comics, video games, rare and limited edition collectibles, and music. One of its the most popular features is the E-sports carnival, which displays the hottest video games and gaming devices, and gives gamers a chance to try them out.
The organiser said it hoped to host the event in October or December.
But the government went ahead with an event called Energising Hong Kong Films in Central on Monday afternoon. Commerce minister Edward Yau Tang-wah officiated the event.
The winners of the 6th First Feature Film Initiative were announced on the occasion, which was attended by members of the Hong Kong Film Development Council and some local film directors.
On the occasion, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau announced it would earmark around HK$260 million (US$33 million)under the Film Development Fund to boost local film production, nurture young directors and scriptwriting talents, and enhance professional training, with a view to revitalise Hong Kong’s film industry.
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