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October 15, 2022

The government on Thursday announced that venues such as restaurants and bars would be allowed to host live performances from next week, ending a two-and-a-half year ban, as officials revealed they’re mulling easing a cap on the number of people allowed to gather in public.

The return of live performances in places such as pubs on October 20 comes after months of calls from performers and operators, who say they’ve seen their incomes suffer even as large-scale gigs have been allowed to resume.

Performers will have to take regular Covid tests, including presenting a negative rapid antigen test at the venue on the day of the performance. They must keep masks on where possible and maintain a distance from the audience.

Announcing the changes, Undersecretary for Health Libby Lee said the government was also actively considering easing the cap on public gatherings from the present limit of four people to 12.

“[Limiting] the number of people gathering together is one of the useful measures to limit the spread of the disease. Once the disease is controlled, or all the immunity of the public is guaranteed, basically we can slowly release the limitations of the number of people in gatherings,” Lee said.

“But how [quickly] it should be, or what number it should be, I think it’s actually tied to the same principle of observing the effect of each relaxation of measures. When you see the relaxation of measures, the risk of infections can be controlled, and there will be space to further relax.”

In another change, people will be allowed to eat in outdoor areas of theme parks, instead of being limited to food premises within the attractions.

The announcement came as the SAR on Thursday reported 5,622 new Covid infections, including 387 imported ones. Eight more patients with Covid have died.

Health officials said they recorded 23 more cases involving the new Covid subvariant XBB, bringing the tally in the territory to 29.

Albert Au from the Centre for Health Protection said while the new subvariant could be more transmissible, there is no scientific evidence to indicate that it will lead to more severe infections.

“If this subvariant is imported into Hong Kong, there is a risk of replacing the BA.5 currently circulating in the local community. We will closely monitor the situation. According to overseas experiences, especially the Singapore experience, when this subvariant, the proportion is increasing, there will also be an increase in the proportion of infections, and also an increase in the absolute number of cases,” Au said.

“However, so far there is no scientific evidence showing that this type of new subvariant has an increased disease severity, or causes more severe disease once infected.”

Separately, the Hospital Authority said it has resumed more than 80 percent of its non-emergency services, and is relaxing its visiting restrictions for 10 psychiatric hospitals and wards starting next week.

From next Thursday, patients at lower risks of infection – including those under 60 or individuals who are at least double-jabbed, will be given a one-hour visit each day, with a quota of three registered visitors for each session.

Patients at higher risks of infection, such as those with compromised immune systems, will be allowed two one-hour visits each week, and up to two visitors can register for each slot.

General Covid-19 situation:
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Hotline for Covid-positive patients: 1836 115

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