Hong Kong’s public swimming pools will not reopen on Thursday as expected, after the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) said that it was conducting filtration and sterilisation at the city’s 38 government-owned pools.

In a statement issued on Tuesday night, hours after Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that swimming pools would be among the facilities allowed to resume operations from Thursday as the city’s fifth wave of Covid-19 eased, the LCSD said that pools will “reopen gradually” from May 12 to 16.

Victoria Swimming Pool. Photo: GovHK.

Government-managed beaches and all water sports centres will reopen on Thursday as announced, with lifeguard services to resume at 15 beaches from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The department urged the public not to swim at beaches without lifeguards services.

From Thursday, masks will no longer be required during outdoor exercise, and restaurants will be allowed to sit eight people to a table.

Bars and clubs will also be allowed to reopen on May 19 under the second phase of restrictions being relaxed, when eateries will be allowed to provide dine-in services until midnight.

Hong Kong has recorded 1,205,083 Covid-19 infections and 9,325 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic over two years ago.

Covid-19 has become an ‘endemic disease’

Covid-19 has become an “endemic disease” in Hong Kong, as the decrease in the number of daily infections slows down, respiratory disease expert David Hui told Commercial Radio on Wednesday morning.

“I believe [Covid-19] has become an endemic disease. You can see that the decrease [of cases] became very slow after we hit the low-three digits,” said Hui, adding that he expected the virus to always exist in the community.

David Hui. Photo: GovHK.

When asked how difficult it would be for the city to achieve zero-Covid, Hui said that Hong Kong’s policy adjustments and whether the city would require compulsory universal testing would depend on mainland China’s policy and discussions with the central authorities.

He also said that the city’s flight suspension mechanism did not “have much impact.”

From last Sunday, a five-day route ban will be triggered if at least five passengers or five per cent of travellers on the same flight – whichever is higher – test positive for Covid-19 upon arrival in Hong Kong.

“Travellers are only allowed to board the plane after testing negative, they’re all vaccinated, and they’re tested again upon arrival. We also have enough hotel rooms now that we don’t have to reserve some for locals to quarantine in, that’s why in my personal opinion the flight suspension mechanism does not have a great effect,” Hui said.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.