Bars and restaurants will be allowed to open all hours from next week while public barbecue pits will also reopen after the government announced its latest easing of social distancing regulations on Thursday.
Officials said the easing was possible because the number of deaths and serious cases of Covid-19 remained steady, with the healthcare system able to cope. They said they hoped to make life easier for the public.
The changes, which take effect in one week, will also see people attending functions such as weddings allowed to remove their masks when photographs are being taken.
Asked why it was deemed safe to allow people to take their masks off for photography, Undersecretary for Health Libby Lee said: “We consider the risk of taking off the mask briefly without eating or drinking, and just taking photos for a short period of time, [to] be manageable.
“We do receive a lot of feedback from citizens who feel that letting them have photos on stage probably can actually ease their worries and make their well-being much better.”
But Mr Ng, who will host a wedding in December, told RTHK the dropping of the rule will not make much of a difference. “If my overseas guests cannot come to Hong Kong, then obviously they cannot take photos with me during the wedding,” he said.
Under the present regulations, restaurants must close at midnight, while bars are allowed to serve no later than 2am. The removal of the opening hour restrictions will be welcomed by the hospitality industry ahead of next month’s football World Cup, where many key games will kick off at 3am.
The president of the Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, Simon Wong, said he hopes the government could go further in terms of relaxation.
“Of course we are hoping that the government would further relax the measures, particularly on the limitation of guests going to banquets.”
On the reopening of barbecue pits, Lee said they now posed no higher risk than restaurants, given that the latter have been allowed to seat up to 12 people at each table. The pits will begin to reopen from Thursday next week.
Other rules, such as the mask mandate, vaccine pass and limits on the number of customers at restaurant tables, will stay in place.
Asked when travel restrictions would be eased to remove the requirement for people arriving in the SAR to do three days of medical surveillance, Lee said officials would have to be cautious and closely monitor the Covid situation around the world.
The announcement came as Hong Kong reported 6,062 new Covid infections for the day, of which 375 were imported. Eight more Covid patients have died.
Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said the number of local coronavirus infections had risen by around five percent compared to the previous week.
The week-on-week numbers for imported cases rose by about 10 percent, Chuang said, adding that more than half of the positive infections were identified at the airport upon arrival.
Last updated: 2022-10-27 HKT 21:22
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