Hong Kong is to relax its ban on dining-in at restaurants after workers were forced to eat lunch on roadsides and in parks. The measure was part of stringent new social distancing measures brought in on Wednesday to combat a third wave of coronavirus infections across the city.

A man who is wearing a construction worker vest buys takeaway from a restaurant. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

From Thursday, customers will be able to dine in at eateries during breakfast and lunchtimes only, with two people allowed at each table. However, restaurants may only accept dine-in customers up to 50 per cent of the venue capacity and a distance of 1.5 metres between each table will be required.

The city saw another record-high number of infections on Thursday, totalling 149. Four were imported and 84 were linked to previous local cases, while 61 remained untraceable.

On Wednesday, photos from local media and the internet showed many people – especially construction workers – finishing takeaways meals outdoors, often in the rain. The restriction was criticised by both pro-democracy and pro-establishment lawmakers, whilst the Construction Site Workers General Union slammed the dine-in ban as “reckless,” citing the summer heat and hygiene issues.

Photos: Facebook.

Numerous district councillors opened their offices to the public and offered assistance to people who were looking for a place to have lunch. Some churches – including the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Wan Chai – also offered to open their venue to citizens in need.

The city’s health minister has admitted that data from experts showed that the current outbreak may be related to the government’s quarantine exemption list. Over a quarter of a million trips made by airline and sea crew members, along with government officials, truck drivers and company executives have been exempt from the rules between February and June, according to government data.

First detected in Hubei, China, almost 20 million people globally have been infected with Covid-19, whilst over 731,000 have died from the SARS-like disease according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.