[Sponsored Article] The COVID-19 pandemic is testing Hong Kong as never before. Schools are suspended, offices closed and many businesses suffering. The constant worry over the health of loved ones is putting a strain on us all. At The Hong Kong Jockey Club we have always taken our community to heart. So at this time of great need, the welfare of our city is our utmost concern. Just we have sought to be responsible and responsive in maintaining racing while also protecting the health of customers and employees, we have adopted the same responsive approach to the needs of the wider community. With the crisis fast-moving and fast-changing, we announced our first set of relief measures in early February, with more following in March. So far our Charities Trust has approved HK$196 million to support those most in need. We have mobilised our internal capabilities and we are drawing on our wide network of community partners to address urgent needs, particularly among vulnerable and potentially overlooked members of the community. Agility, innovation and fast execution are our watchwords. “Currently our initiatives are helping over one million of the most vulnerable members of our society. I firmly believe that by caring for and working with each other with resilience and a can-do spirit, our community can overcome the unprecedented challenges of the virus”, says Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Club’s Chief Executive Officer. Face masks The supply of face masks has been a major concern, with supplies unavailable or unaffordable for those on low-incomes, or simply difficult to access for the elderly, the homebound and the disabled. To address the shortage, from early January the Club’s procurement team immediately began sourcing face masks. To date 680,000 have been directly supplied, including 80,000 KF94 masks to the Hospital Authority, with the remainder going to needy members of the community. Overall the Club has either sourced or funded the purchase of 8.8 million face masks. COVID-19 Emergency Fund Community groups and NGOs provide essential front-line support to the community, and in the current crisis their work is vital. For example by carrying out urgent sewage improvement work to reduce the risk of infection in sub-divided housing; to provide health information packs in ethnic-minority languages; and to support patients with chronic conditions following the suspension of non-urgent medical services. To support these and other essential services, in February the Club established the COVID-19 Emergency Fund. With the Club fast-tracking applications, the initial fund of HK$50 million was rapidly subscribed and in March the Club provided an additional HK$50 million, bringing the total to HK$100 million. To date over 150 NGOs have implemented over 160 projects, bringing immediate relief to the elderly, the disabled, patients, ethnic minorities, and to underprivileged families and students. Care packs For the homebound elderly and the disabled getting access to essential supplies, especially hygiene products, is a major concern. With support from the Club, NGOs are delivering care packs containing medical masks, vitamins, hand sanitisers and other essentials such as rice, canned food, tissues and toilet paper. “All these supplies are very useful. I’m so glad that someone is there to give us a hand to get through this difficult time!” said wheelchair-bound Cheung Chun-ping, a 55-year-old born with cerebral palsy and polio, who received a Club-funded care pack in late February. The Club has also given flexibility to the NGOs to purchase and deliver care pack items. “The Club informed us of its plans to provide funding for care packs at a very early stage,” said Ivy Leung Siu-ling, Assistant Chief Executive (Operation) of the Christian Family Service Centre. “We make suggestions on which products can best meet the personal needs of the elderly and the disabled.” The Club expanded the initiative in March, providing a further HK$30 million to the Hong Kong Council of Social Service to distribute care packs to vulnerable groups. In total, the packs are expected to reach some 670,000 people. Support for online education With the prolonged school closure, and educational institutions now teaching online, many students living in subdivided flats, old buildings or in remote areas have not been able to afford, or do not have access to, high speed broadband internet. To address this issue, the Club has donated HK$42 million to provide SIM cards with free mobile internet data to 100,000 underprivileged primary and secondary school students for four months. Two-thirds of Hong Kong schools have applied to join the scheme, with some 50,000 SIM cards already distributed. “We are very pleased to be receiving mobile SIM cards and that there are dedicated friends in the community who understand that data bandwidth is an important element of online learning. Together with our school’s hardware and teaching tools, we’re able to better support students’ learning needs during the school closure,” said Principal Simon Tso of De La Salle Secondary School, N.T., one of the schools participating in the scheme. The scheme also provides licenses to support virtual “Zoom classrooms” for four months, with up to 1,000 schools set to benefit. The Club is grateful for the support of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups and The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong and the assistance of mobile carriers. Standing with our community The Club will continue to monitor COVID-19. Working with our partners we will do everything we can to support the community in its hour of need.