Hong Kong’s most stringent Covid-related social distancing measures began to ease on Thursday, with restaurants allowed to resume dinner services and some premises that were forced to close able to open again, albeit with a limited capacity.

Restrictions were enforced in early January, at the beginning of the city’s fifth and worst wave of the coronavirus, which has infected almost 1.19 million and resulted in close to 9,000 related deaths.

A general view shows a totally empty street in the usually busy drinking area of Lan Kwai Fong. File photo: May James/HKFP.

The Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan announced details of the relaxations of pandemic control measures last Thursday.

The limit on public gatherings has been raised from two to four people per group, while the limit on household gatherings has been lifted entirely, and most sports and entertainment facilities can open.

However, bars, barbeque pits, beaches, swimming pools and other water sports premises must remain closed until the next phase of relaxations – the date of which has not been confirmed by authorities.

‘Still at high level’

On Wednesday, Hong Kong reported 668 new Covid-19 infections and 10 related deaths.

Albert Au, the principal medical and health officer of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP), said during Wednesday’s routine Covid-19 briefing that the city’s pandemic situation has remained at “a stable level” in the past few days, with about 600 to 700 cases per day.

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“However, compared with the past, this level of cases is still at a high level, so people need to continue to take precautions and also maintain social distancing measures,” Au said.

He said that health authorities had not noticed “an upwards trend” since the recent Easter holidays, but that it could take up to a week to see whether a rebound was probable.

He said the government would continue to monitor the city’s Covid-19 situation. “If you ask what the level of resurge has to be for [social distancing measures] to be tightened again, in fact there is no strict standard,” Au said.

4 new cases in reopened schools

Three students and one staff member from three schools tested positive for Covid-19 during required daily rapid tests on Wednesday morning, Au said. Primary and international schools resumed in-person classes the previous day.

Au said they had not been on campus and that they were not infected at school.

On Tuesday, the first day of in-person classes for many in months, 14 students and one teacher tested positive, according to the CHP. The teacher and 12 of those students were from one international school.

However, Au clarified on Wednesday that the 12 pupils were mistakenly reported as positive by their parents via the school’s intranet system. He said the CHP had investigated and the school had followed up with the parents and the 12 all produced negative results on Wednesday.

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Peter Lee

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.