Hong Kong on Friday began to ease major social distancing measures with bars, gyms, beauty parlours and cinemas reopening their doors after the financial hub largely halted local transmissions of the deadly coronavirus.

Queues formed outside gyms in the semi-autonomous Chinese city on Friday morning for employees to check temperatures as people celebrated the return of some normalcy to the city.

File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Will Sutton, an American resident, tweeted pictures of his local gym with partitions placed between running machines.

“After three weeks without a workout, whatever… let’s just get back to sweating!” he wrote.

The less health-conscious flocked to watering holes, some of which opened their doors as soon as the clock struck midnight.

“I’m so happy,” one punter surnamed Chow told Apple Daily outside a newly re-opened bar in Kowloon district in the early hours of Friday morning. “I’ve not been here for a long time.”

Most of Hong Kong’s entertainment venues were shuttered in early April when the city suffered a second wave of infections — primarily residents returning from Europe and North America as the pandemic exploded there.

File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

But health officials have made impressive headway against the disease thanks to efficient testing, tracing and treatment programmes with just over 1,000 infections and four deaths.

New COVID-19 cases have been in the single digits for the last 18 days — with eleven days showing a zero tally. All new infections are residents returning from overseas who are quickly quarantined.

In a city mired in recession the reopening of many businesses will be welcome. But the threat of the virus means certain restrictions remain in place. 

Bars are permitted to operate at half-capacity and must ensure a distance of 1.5 metres between tables, while live music performances and dancing remain banned.

Gyms, cinemas and beauty parlours must also ensure social distancing — such as adequate space between yoga mats — as well as temperature checks and hand sanitiser.

Photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press.

Pure, one of the biggest yoga chains, said it would limit classes to a maximum of eight people while bowling alleys are only opening every other lane.

Authorities have also lifted the limit on how many people can gather in public from four to eight.

Restaurants will also now be allowed to take bookings from groups of up to eight people.

Nightclubs and karaoke businesses will remain closed for now because health officials regard them as “high risk”.

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