Hong Kong is to further loosen its epidemic rules for bars, restaurants and public beaches in a bid to boost economic activities in the coming Halloween weekend.
From Friday, bars and restaurants will open until 2am instead of midnight and operate at greater capacity. The beaches will reopen as the government relaxes social distancing measures.
Restaurants will be allowed to seat up to six people per table – up from four – while bars and nightclubs can seat a maximum of four per table, an increase from two. In addition, they can operate at 75% capacity, up from 50%.
Easing curbs would help boost the revenue of the catering sector at Halloween, said Tommy Cheung, a lawmaker representing the Catering functional constituency.
“We are anxiously waiting for the government to come up with a QR code so we can help register people who come to our restaurant in case something happens. Probably we could help the government with tracing,” Cheung said.
Reopening of beaches comes after months of closure. Capacity at other sports and entertainment facilities such as swimming pools, theme parks and performance venues will also go up to 75% from 50%.
The latest round of measures took into consideration people’s needs as well as the overall economic situation, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said.
However, the government has decided not to ease a ban on gatherings of more than four people for the time being.
“Generally speaking, we urge the public not to gather. This is important,” she said, adding that the government would stick to a gradual and targeted relaxation of distancing measures.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday that Hong Kong people coming from mainland China would be exempt from the 14-day quarantine requirements from next month.
Initially there would be a quota for the exemptions, Lam said in a briefing before the weekly Executive Council meeting. The arrangement would help push forward the reopening of Hong Kong’s border with the mainland gradually and orderly, she added.
Besides, the “air travel bubble” would kick off in November, she said. Those who joined the travel bubble scheme would have to pay for their virus tests, she said.
At present, only Shenzhen Bay and the Hong Hong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge are operating as border points.
“We are now working on exempting people,” she said. An example was Hong Kong residents coming back from Guangdong province. They would be exempt from 14 days quarantine if they had a negative PCR test.
The situation on mainland areas such as Guangdong stabilized a long time ago but those who are exempted from quarantine must provide a negative result from a throat swab test to show they are not infected, Chan said.
Chan didn’t specify how many hours before arrival the test should be conducted. She said people coming from high risk areas have to take such a test within 72 hours of their journey.
The Center for Health Protection said Tuesday a total of 13 imported cases were recorded while no local infection was identified during the two days between Sunday and Monday.
On Saturday, a case with an unknown source was recorded. It involved a 42-year-old man who lived in Beverly Garden in Tseung Kwan O and at Siu Ying Commercial Building in Sheung Wan. He developed a sore throat on October 20 and consulted a private doctor on October 21. He sought treatment at Tseung Kwan O (Po Ning Road) General Out-patient Clinic on October 22 and submitted a throat saliva sample on the following day.
Last Friday, a 56-year-old man who lives with his family in Block 9, Nan Fung Sun Chuen, Quarry Bay, tested positive. The source of his infection remains unknown. The man is an engineering supervisor who started having symptoms on October 21. He went to Penny’s Bay Quarantine Center Phase 2, which has not started operations, for waterproofing works from October 10 to 12. His family and about 10 co-workers who shared the office with the man will have to be quarantined.
On September 24, the Hong Kong government announced conditions on travelers who visited the United Kingdom in the 14 days before arriving in Hong Kong to reduce the number of imported cases. Prior to this, it had set out measures applicable to Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States.
On Tuesday, Collinson, a service provider of travel medical services, and Swissport International AG, an aviation services company providing airport ground and cargo handling services, said they had jointly opened pre-departure testing facilities at both of Heathrow Airport’s operational terminals, Terminal 2 and Terminal 5.
The new facilities mean passengers travelling from Heathrow to Hong Kong can be tested for Covid-19 and know in about an hour if they have a negative result and are approved to fly.
A LAMP test, which is able to detect the RNA of the virus, can be processed without being sent to a laboratory at Heathrow Airport for for £80 (US$104). It is a more recent development than the PCR test, which is the most sensitive but takes five hours to get a result.