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Pfizer, BioNTech to co-develop potential coronavirus vaccine

[NEW YORK] US drugmaker Pfizer Inc has signed a deal with Germany’s BioNTech SE to co-develop a potential vaccine for the coronavirus using BioNTech’s mRNA-based drug development platform, the companies said on Tuesday.

The drugmakers will start the collaboration immediately and have signed a letter of intent for the vaccine’s distribution outside China, they said in a joint statement.

The companies said they will finalize financial terms, and details regarding development, manufacturing and potential commercialization of the vaccine over the next few weeks.

BioNTech on Monday struck a collaboration deal with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical over its rights in China to its experimental coronavirus vaccine, aiming to start testing on humans from late April.

The race is on to develop an immunization, which is seen as by far the most effective tool to halt the global spread of the pathogen.

Pfizer already collaborates with BioNTech to develop mRNA-based vaccines for influenza.

The coronavirus outbreak has so far infected nearly 179,000 people globally and killed more than 7,000. Several countries have imposed bans on mass gatherings such as sporting, cultural and religious events to combat the disease.


Hong Kong, hammered by the coronavirus and protests, must look to the Greater Bay Area

Closing borders is not the solution as it only creates panic. Macau has managed to contain the spread of the virus without a border shutdown

To reboot its flagging economy, Hong Kong must rise to its role as innovation hub in the Greater Bay Area

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has now closed 10 out of Hong Kong’s  crossings with the mainland to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. Unfortunately, the partial shutdown has not worked well. The total number of cases in Hong Kong has risen to at least 65. In Macau, the government successfully contained the spread of the virus without a border shutdown.

Closing the border creates panic and the illusion of a supply shortage. A rumour of a shortage of household items has caused people in Hong Kong to stockpile goods, with long queues forming outside grocery stores and supermarkets. The market has responded by increasing the price of these items, further igniting fear.

If such negative signals spread to the financial sector and other parts of the economy, we will have an economic crisis on our hands soon.

In fact, due to the political divide and social unrest last year and the coronavirus crisis this year, the financial sector foresees an unstable business environment. The city has almost no traditional industries, partially due to the high labour cost and rents.


Hong Kongers to get equal rights in property purchases in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area

HONG KONG (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A series of new policies will make it more convenient for Hong Kongers to live in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, including equal rights to buy property in the nine Guangdong cities in the region, Hong Kong's top leader said on Wednesday (Nov 6).After the third plenary meeting of the leading group for the development of the Bay Area held in Beijing, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced 16 policies that will make it easier for the people of Hong Kong and Macau to live, work, study and start businesses across the 11-city cluster.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government welcomed the series of policy measures, which can benefit people from different sectors of Hong Kong society, Mrs Lam said.

One of the most noticeable policies is that Hong Kong and Macau residents will be treated as local residents when they buy properties in the nine Guangdong cities. Currently, they have to provide proof of their duration of residence, study or employment, or pay a certain amount of individual income tax and social insurance.

Meanwhile, the children of Hong Kong and Macau residents will share the same pre-primary education services, and participate in the same entrance examination for senior high school admittance as their mainland peers.

In addition, it will be easier for Hong Kong residents to use the mobile electronic payment services on the mainland, as well as cross-boundary wealth management and open mainland bank accounts. These measures could also further promote financial cooperation between the two places, Mrs Lam said.

Local young people will be the first to benefit. Mr Angus Ng, executive president of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area Youth Association, said he believes that relaxing the purchase restriction provides a way to ease the plight of young Hong Kongers caused by the city's staggering housing prices.

Mr Ng also said that effective control measures should be taken to avoid a sharp rise in mainland housing prices, which would adversely affect local mainland residents' property purchases.

There are five policies and measures to support professional services, including legal, construction and insurance professionals, to practice in the mainland or to develop their businesses.


China’s Greater Bay Area failing to draw HK students

China’s plans to create the Greater Bay Area, an international business and economic hub encompassing Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in neighbouring Guangdong province, is proving unpopular with Hong Kong youth, according to a new study published by the Hong Kong Guangdong Youth Association.

Following months of protests against Beijing that have seen increased interest in studying outside of the city, the majority of young Hong Kongers interviewed said they had no interest in moving to other parts of the Greater Bay Area for either work or study, listing among their reasons concerns about the recognition of Chinese university qualifications.

Since the release of the Greater Bay Area development plan in February 2019, the respective local governments have introduced new measures and projects to promote exchange and integration.

“Universities in Hong Kong have been building up close collaborations with elite HE institutions in the Greater Bay Area”

“Universities in Hong Kong have been building up close collaborations with elite higher education institutions in the Greater Bay Area,” a spokesperson from Hong Kong’s education bureau told The PIE News.

“In the 2018/19 academic year, our publicly-funded universities had 292 and 32 research collaborative projects with institutions in Guangdong and Macao respectively.”

New regulations have also given the children of Hong Kong and Macanese parents the same access to education as those born in Guangdong in the hopes of encouraging more residents to work there.

According to the spokesperson, they are also “exploring the feasibility” of offering schools and classes in the Greater Bay Area using the Hong Kong curriculum.

The study also suggested not just dislike of going elsewhere in the area, but of students coming in, while over half of respondents believed Hong Kong universities should not welcome mainland Chinese students.

In the last academic year, 1,755 students from Guangdong and 127 students from Macao studied in publicly-funded programs at undergraduate and postgraduate level in Hong Kong. The most recent data from China’s Ministry of Education, from 2017, said almost 8,000 Hong Kong students were studying in Guangdong.

But while Hong Kongers may not be interested in the Greater Bay Area, according to Beijing-based consultancy Venture Education, other countries very much are. By 2022, there will be 13 independent British schools in Guangdong province, more than in both Beijing and Shanghai.