HK to allow more people at tables in restaurants, bars

From Oct 6, some social distancing measures at restaurants and bars in Hong Kong will be relaxed. - AFP

HONG KONG (Bloomberg): Hong Kong has made small changes to some of its social-distancing rules, including allowing larger groups of people to gather at certain venues, and signaLled the government will take a cautious approach to further loosening of Covid measures.

The changes will come into effect starting Oct 6, though the city will retain a raft of other restrictions including the need to present a negative rapid-antigen test result to enter bars and clubs and the mandatory wearing of masks outside, health officials said at a briefing on Friday (Sept 30).

The announcement follows an easing in the local virus situation, with officials saying two of the city’s largest Covid hospitals will start to reduce capacity.

The Asia World Expo site will be put on standby starting Friday.

Hong Kong is slowly dismantling some of the world’s toughest travel and social-distancing curbs as it seeks to revive its status as a global financial hub.

The government has just scrapped mandatory hotel quarantine for all inbound travellers, a major shift in its Covid strategy, though officials have repeatedly signalled they’ll be cautious when assessing further changes and will rely on data in their decision making.

Changes need to be made carefully in order to prevent a rebound in virus cases, Under Secretary for Health Libby Lee said at the briefing, urging patience from Hong Kong residents.

The city’s outdoor mask mandate is on the list of measures that may be reviewed and could be relaxed if local virus conditions permit, she said.

Local daily infections have fallen to about 4,000 from around 10,000 earlier this month. The city reports an average of 180 imported cases every day, which accounts for just 3% to 5% of the total case tally, according to health officials.

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