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Hong Kong economy to see more weakness due to virus outbreak

Customers wear masks as they are buying foods at a food market, in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The risk of further contraction in the Hong Kong economy, which was buffeted by anti-government protests last year, has increased due to the coronavirus epidemic, Financial Secretary Paul Chan on Sunday.

"As it (the economy) enters 2020, it has not shaken off the risk of continued decline, but has encountered the threat of a new coronavirus pneumonia epidemic, which will definitely cause a double blow to the economy," Chan said in a blog post.

"It is estimated that the epidemic situation will greatly increase the risk of continued economic contraction this year, and this will also affect the reduction of government revenue and increase in expenditure."

Hong Kong sank into recession for the first time in a decade in the third quarter as political protests plunged the city into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Chan said catering, retail, tourism and consumer sectors, which have been hit in the last six months, would "fall into a deeper winter,". The government will continue to monitor closely to ensure the financial stability of Hong Kong, he added.

A total of 304 people have died in China, the country's National Health Commission said on Sunday. Infections in China jumped to 14,380 as of Saturday.

Authorities have announced 15 confirmed infections in Hong Kong but no deaths.



(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; additional reporting by Jessie Pang; Editing by Angus MacSwan)