Hong Kong saw another round of Covid-19 rules loosened on Thursday, with bars reopening and restaurants allowed to operate until midnight.
The relaxations follow months of restrictions in place to curb the city’s fifth and worst pandemic wave.
Besides bars, other businesses kept closed during the fifth wave including party rooms, karaoke establishments and mahjong premises have also resumed.
Hong Kong’s Covid-19 outbreak has largely stabilised in recent weeks. Authorities recorded another 329 infections on Wednesday, 31 of which were imported.
Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip said on Wednesday that it was “only natural” that cases would rise with the easing of restrictions.
“As social distancing measures are relaxed further, it’s expected Covid outbreaks will emerge at places such as restaurants,” he said.
Lam said earlier this month that she was “personally inclined” to keep Covid-19 rules relaxed so that the public could enjoy the celebrations to mark the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China.
No masks at gyms, eating allowed in cinemas
Thursday’s easing of Covid-19 rules was part of the second phase of relaxations of the city’s anti-epidemic measures.
Hong Kong saw the first stage of measures relaxed last month, with restaurants allowed to operate dine-in services past 6 p.m. for the first time since January when the measures kicked in. Gyms, beauty salons and other businesses also reopened.
Under the second stage of relaxations, restrictions on the number of people allowed in premises such as cinemas and museums was also loosened. The ban on eating and drinking in cinemas has also been lifted.
Gym goers do not have to wear masks while exercising indoors if the fitness centre meets requirements on air change, though one industry concern group representative said few gyms had the money to purchase equipment that would satisfy the authorities’ conditions.
The reopening of beaches and an increase in the number of diners per table from four to eight were originally part of the second stage of relaxations, but Lam brought the measures forward given the stable Covid-19 epidemic.
Gabriel Leung, the dean of the University of Hong Kong’s medical school, said last Saturday that Hong Kong could see a sixth Covid-19 wave within two weeks according to epidemiological modelling.
Another medical expert, Yuen Kwok-yung from the same university, said, however, that the government should focus more on the number of serious Covid-19 cases and deaths than the number of daily cases.