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1.09m vaccine doses given

About 1,091,100 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to the public, with about 719,900 people receiving their first dose and about 371,200 people getting their second dose.   Among those given the first dose of vaccines, about 375,600 people have received the Sinovac jab and about 344,300 people have received the BioNTech one.    For the second dose, about 223,100 people have received the Sinovac vaccine, while about 148,100 people have been administered the BioNTech jab.   About 3,600 people received their first dose of the Sinovac vaccine under the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme today.   Among them, about 3,200 people received the jab at eight community vaccination centres (CVCs), while about 400 were inoculated at private doctors and clinics participating in the programme.   Around 10,400 people received their second dose of the Sinovac vaccine today, including about 9,800 people vaccinated at CVCs and about 600 people through private doctors and clinics.  

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Govt forecasts $101.6b deficit

(To watch the 2021-22 Budget speech with sign language interpretation, click here.)   In his Budget speech today, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said that to combat the epidemic and roll out relief measures, the Government has increased expenditure substantially in the past year, leading to a plunge in the fiscal reserves in two years from the equivalent of 23 months of government expenditure to 13 months.   Mr Chan said he expects the fiscal deficit for the next financial year to be $101.6 billion and for Hong Kong to record a deficit for four consecutive years afterwards.   He noted that facing the challenges of fiscal deficits, the Government should not only reduce expenditure but also increase revenue.   The rate of stamp duty on stock transfers will be raised from the current 0.1% to 0.13% of the consideration or value of each transaction payable by buyers and sellers respectively.   The finance chief said the Government will review the case for introducing a progressive element to the rating system and that for providing a rates concession to owner-occupied properties on a regular basis.   In cutting expenditure, the Government will have zero growth in the civil service establishment in 2021-22. All policy bureaus and departments are required to save spending, aiming to trim recurrent expenditure by 1% in 2022-23. The estimated savings will be about $3.9 billion.   However, Mr Chan stressed that spending in areas related to people’s livelihood, including education, social welfare and healthcare, will not be reduced.   The 2020-21 revised estimate on government revenue is $543.5 billion, mainly due to a substantial fall in revenue from land premiums.   Expenditure is $820.4 billion, 12.2% higher than the original estimate, mainly because of injections into the Anti-epidemic Fund.   All in all, a deficit of $257.6 billion is forecast for 2020-21. Fiscal reserves are expected to be $902.7 billion by March 31 next year.
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