The head of the Small and Medium Restaurant Federation, Gordon Lam, on Friday urged the government to provide the sector with some money and more time to improve ventilation systems.

Restaurants have been ordered to achieve a minimum of six air changes per hour by the end of the month to curb coronavirus transmission.

But Lam said on an RTHK radio programme that there may not be enough air purifiers for around 20,000 restaurants in Hong Kong at such short notice, and suppliers may also jack up prices.

“The number of [air purifier] machines restaurants need depend on their size. Sometimes they need several, not just one. Is there an immediate supply of dozens or even a hundred thousand machines in the market?” he questioned.

Lam expressed worries that air purifier vendors may increase prices after a government-appointed working group for improving restaurant ventilation listed over a hundred machines that met the prescribed specifications.

He added he hoped the government could subsidise the struggling catering sector to help them upgrade their systems, and allow them to open until midnight as long as restaurants comply with the requirement.

Meanwhile, the working group’s chairman, Professor Yuen Pak-leung, said on the same programme that restaurants could actually apply for more time to make the alterations if necessary.

But he said some hotpot and barbecue restaurants already meet the ventilation requirement with 15 air changes per hour.

He added some large restaurants can also adjust the settings of their ventilation systems and will not need to procure new air purifiers.