Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 in Hong Kong could mean winning a Tesla or even a pile of gold as the city’s tycoons and their companies look to incentivize the shots and help boost a sluggish inoculation rate.
Li Ka-shing’s CK Group, along with his charitable foundation, announced Tuesday it would give away HK$20 million ($2.6 million) in shopping vouchers via a lottery to people who had received two shots. New World Development Co., led by fellow billionaire Adrian Cheng, also said it would offer HK$10 million in subsidies for lower-income people who had gotten vaccinated.
“The value of various lotteries or reward programs, we have learned from news reports, has exceeded HK$120 million, the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a weekly briefing.
Incentives from local businesses appear to be creating a bounce in the vaccine uptake. About 34,600 people reserved slots for shots from BioNTech SE and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. vaccinations in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to the government statement.
Total bookings, which include first and second doses, saw a pickup in late May as businesses began taking part in the campaign.
Hong Kong authorities are increasingly leaning toward the local business community to help inject momentum into their vaccine rollout, which has been impeded by concerns about rare side effects, faltering trust in the Beijing-backed government and a lack of urgency stemming from the city’s low case numbers.
Only about 15.1 percent of Hong Kong’s population of 7.5 million has been fully inoculated, according to Bloomberg’s COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker, far behind other finance centers like London and Singapore. Bolstering Hong Kong’s rate is imperative for business owners, as the low numbers slow the city’s effort to reach herd immunity -- pivotal to both fully reopening the economy and defending it against more transmissible mutated COVID strains.
The government last month announced a campaign to accelerate the inoculation rate by September, with measures such as paid leave for inoculated civil servants and possible additional restrictions for unvaccinated residents.
The move comes as some residents question the administration’s focus on small, often-confusing policy incentives -- like reopening bars past midnight only for vaccinated people -- rather than take bigger steps toward alleviating some of the world’s strictest quarantine and social distancing measures and encouraging skeptics that it’s worth getting jabbed.
Win a House
Two other major Hong Kong firms announced separate incentive programs this month worth more than $20 million combined. Hong Kong’s largest developer Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. is offering prizes including iPhones, while tycoon Lee Shau Kee’s Henderson Land Development Co. has gold bars up for grabs.
The local office of Australian industrial property firm Goodman Group is holding a lottery with over HK$1 million in prizes to residents who are fully vaccinated by August 31. The giveaways will include a Tesla Model 3 costing upwards of HK$500,000, a Goodman statement said.
Other companies, restaurants, and even some colleges have started offering cash payouts, vouchers and extra time off for employees. Sino Group’s philanthropic arm Ng Teng Fong Charitable Foundation and Chinese Estates Holdings Ltd. said last month that they would offer a new $1.4 million apartment in the Kwun Tong area as a prize for inoculated residents.
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