Many travellers stay in Metropark Hotel Mongkok due to quarantine requirements. Photo: Google Maps

Hong Kong fitness centers and massage parlors will reopen from Friday as the city’s Covid-19 situation improves.

Clubhouses and arcade centers will also resume, provided they implement anti-epidemic measures, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Wednesday.

Operators must not allow more than four people in fitness classes and a similar number around snooker tables. Massage parlors should maintain 1.5m between beds.

Chan said people still had to wear masks in places such as gyms to minimize the risk of infection. However, bars, karaoke lounges, mahjong parlors and swimming pools will remain closed.

The government also decided to extend dine-in at restaurants for one more hour until 10pm from Friday. Chan said this was because many people said it was too much of a rush to finish dinner at restaurants before 9pm due to long working hours.

Last week, cinemas, beauty parlors, and some outdoor exercise venues were reopened with social distancing in place. Restaurants were also allowed to offer dine-in services until 9pm.

A social gathering ban of no more than two people in a public place and a mandatory mask order in all areas, except when doing strenuous exercise and in country parks, will also stay in effect.

The Center for Health Protection said Wednesday that only eight cases were reported within the 24 hours on Tuesday, including four that could be linked to previous cases and the remaining four with unknown sources.

The four patients with unknown sources included two men, aged 70 and 87, who lived separately in Metropark Hotel Mongkok and were waiting to return to the mainland. The 87-year-old, who had stayed in the hotel for several months, was sent to hospital in a coma on August 27 and died the same day. His sample tested positive on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the government said it was boosting the quota at several coronavirus testing centers and considering extending its free testing service into a third week.

Laboratories could only handle around 300,000 specimens a day or two million samples in a week, Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip said.

The voluntary specimen collection, which started on Tuesday, is expected to last for one to two weeks. Authorities have not set a target but some government advisors hoped four million people would be tested.

Nip said the scheme ran smoothly on day one with around 126,000 people giving specimens, and that 710,000 people had signed up for the test as of Wednesday morning.

The scheme has not yet identified any case in the community, according to the Center for Health Protection.

Ivan Law, the vice-chairman of the HA Employees’ Alliance, said it is not necessary for Hong Kong to do a universal screening program. Law cited Taiwan where infections were kept to a minimum and economic activities have largely resumed.

“If we have to be scientific or to be accurate, you might have to do the test twice in a short period of time with a stay-at-home order, and that is more scientific if you want to get the data that you use for reference,” said Law.

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