Hong Kong’s social distancing rules will be extended beyond April 23 for 14 days despite a drop in the number of coronavirus cases, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Tuesday.

The decision came a day after authorities recorded no new daily infection cases for the first time in six weeks. New cases have been in the single digits over the past week.

Carrie Lam media April 21
Chief Executive Carrie Lam meets the media on April 21. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The anti-epidemic measures included a ban on gatherings of more than four people in public places and the closure of entertainment venues such as cinemas and gyms.

“In striking [a] balance, we have to take science as a basis,” Lam said. “I have come to this view that for the time being the better balance to be struck and the safer approach to ensure all of the successes Hong Kong has achieved over the past three months, is to extend these social distancing measures for another 14 days.”

In total, Hong Kong has recorded 1,026 cases and four deaths from Covid-19 which was first detected in Wuhan, China.

Lam said there had been 34 prosecutions of restaurants and 131 fixed penalty notices issued over violations of group gathering restrictions, leading to three prosecutions.

social distancing restaurant coronavirus virus
A restaurant in Hong Kong under social distancing rules. Photo: GovHK.

“The SAR government understands that citizens are upset about the halt in social activities. It is causing inconvenience to daily life, leisure, entertainment and gatherings with friends. Please be tolerant,” she added.

“Since we never carried out a complete lockdown of the city, daily life is relatively better than in other places.”

However, a statement from the Food and Health Bureau, issued after Lam’s press briefing, said a cap on the number of customers at restaurants to 50 per cent capacity would be relaxed.

On Monday, a 31-year-old businessman was sentenced to four weeks behind bars after he broke a quarantine order. He became the first non-resident to be prosecuted under the law which applies to all visitors to the city.

Additional reporting: Rachel Wong.

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.