Hong Kong will begin relaxing its “most stringent” set of social distancing restrictions next Thursday.

mask coronavirus covid social distancing closed playground
Security tape is used at the children playground during the coronavirus pandemic to stop public use. The government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) has closed some public recreational and sporting facilities to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. File photo: May James/HKFP.

Food and health secretary Sophia Chan announced that the following measures will be in place from April 21:

  • Restaurants can resume evening dine-in services until 10 p.m. with a maximum of four people per table.
  • Banquets with a maximum of 20 people will be allowed.
  • The limit on public gatherings will be raised from two to four people per group.
  • The restriction on private gatherings of more than two households will be lifted.
  • Bars will remain closed.
  • Beaches, swimming pools, water sports premises, and barbeque pits will remain closed.
Coronavirus covid-19 virus social distancing restaurant
Photo: GovHK.

The following premises will be allowed to reopen, with limits on capacity:

  • Indoor and outdoor sports venues, except beaches and swimming pools
  • Gyms
  • Beauty parlours
  • Massage parlours
  • Performance venues
  • Theme parks
  • Museum and exhibition venues
  • Entertainment venues, including bowling alleys, ice skating rinks
  • Gaming arcades
  • Religious venues
  • Cinemas
  • Public libraries
  • Playgrounds

Eating and drinking will be allowed in cinemas if all staff and customers have received three jabs.

YouTube video

Local tours can resume with a maximum of 30 people. Staff must be triple jabbed and take a rapid test on the day of departure, while participants have to meet the vaccination pass requirements. If all customers return negative results from rapid tests, the head-limit for local tours will be raised to 100.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said during the briefing that certain premises, including gyms, cinemas and beauty parlours, had been closed for more than 200 days over the past two years due to government measures. “I thank all premises for holding the line and cooperating with our work in these difficult two years,” she said.

The relaxations are in line with a previously announced roadmap, when Lam said that social distancing rules would be eased in three stages over three months from April 21.

Hong Kong’s fifth-wave Covid-19 case count has experienced a steady decline in past weeks. On Wednesday, the city recorded 1,272 cases and 62 deaths – a fraction of its peak, when there were over 70,000 daily infections.

In total, the city has recorded 1,194,295 Covid infections and 8,948 related deaths since the pandemic began.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.