Restaurants are to close at 10pm, civil servants will be asked to work from home, and public gatherings of more than two people will be banned from Wednesday amid Hong Kong’s fourth wave of infections. Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the stricter pandemic measures on Monday.

Covid-19 coronavirus virus mask child
Photo: GovHK.

From Wednesday, all civil servants will undergo work from home arrangements depending on each department’s operational needs. Only necessary and emergency personnel will need to commute to work.

As well as closing at 10pm instead of midnight, only two people will be allowed to be seated at restaurant tables following emerging clusters at three restaurants on Hong Kong Island. Takeaway will still be available after 10pm.

Karaoke lounges, amusement arcades, games rooms and concert halls are to close entirely. Beauty parlours and massage parlours can still operate but with stricter restrictions, Lam said, such as compulsory mask wearing.

“I don’t want to give the wrong impression that we have passed the peak of the pandemic,” she said.

Meanwhile, all business premises must display the “Leave Home” app QR codes to help with Covid-19 contract tracing.

New hotline, fines

Lam also announced a hotline for members of the public to report others who breach social distancing regulations. She rejected fears over community surveillance: “The government has all sorts of hotlines for member of the public to bear their civic responsibility… I hope people will not overreact. This is jointly shouldering the responsibility give as we are facing a very serious pandemic situation.”

Covid-19 testing facilities
Photo: GovHK.

To improve enforcement of the rules and create more of a deterrent, Lam announced that fines for violating social distancing rules – such as mask wearing or group gathering rules – will be increased from HK$2,000.

She urged the public to respect the rules, adding that 484 fixed penalty tickets have been issued: “It seems a fine of HK$2,000 is not very effective.”

Details will be announced later.

Fourth wave

The city reported 115 cases on Sunday, the first three-figure rise since August. 76 cases are expected to be reported on Monday, including nine cases with unknown sources of infection.

Coronavirus virus covid-19 social distancing restaurant
Photo: GovHK.

“This wave of transmission is indeed severe,” Lam said, adding that many who tested positive in recent weeks visited many places and have been in contact with a lot of people.

Five more community testing centres and three more quarantine centres will be opened, Lam said.

The city’s secondary and primary schools are to suspend face-to-face classes from Wednesday until the new year at the earliest. Lam said over 30 schools have staff or students who have tested positive for the virus.

Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.