Hong Kong has seen an uptick in Covid-19 infections amid the recent easing of social distancing rules, with clusters linked to a number of bars in Central.

In the seven-day period from last Monday to Sunday, authorities confirmed an average of 153 positive nucleic acid tests per day, up from 103.9 the week before.

A general view shows a totally empty street in the usually busy drinking area of Lan Kwai Fong, in Hong Kong on April 5, 2020, after the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam ordered for the city’s bars to temporarily close as part of measures to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus. Photo: May James/HKFP.

According to the University of Hong Kong’s medical faculty, the real-time effective reproductive number for each Covid-19 case has risen above one in recent weeks to 1.49 on May 29, the most up-to-date figure available.

A value higher than one suggests that each infected patient will go on to infect an average of more than one person, meaning the number of cases may increase exponentially over time, the university explained.

On Sunday, health authorities reported another 27 cases at Shuffle in Lan Kwai Fong, bringing the total number of infections to 69 – including 65 customers and four staff. Environmental samples collected at the bar all returned negative for Covid-19, except one taken from a bathroom door handle, which returned indeterminate results.

Another bar, LINQ, saw 13 more infections, taking the total to 78 cases. Three additional customers from the Iron Fairies and J. Boroski bars on Hollywood Road tested positive, bringing the total number of Covid-19 cases there to 56.

The outbreak at Zentral, a club in California Tower, was believed to be nearing its end, with just two more infections confirmed.

See also: Covid-19: Hong Kong scraps home quarantine for patients with some Omicron subvariants

Hong Kong reported 515 Covid-19 infections on Sunday, including 41 imported cases. Four more coronavirus-related deaths were recorded.

Inspections stepped up

Meanwhile, authorities stepped up checks of catering establishments over the long weekend.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) inspected 471 bars and restaurants on Sunday, initiating prosecution procedures at five premises in Central and Western District, and in Mong Kok.

The FEHD also conducted checks of seven catering premises in a joint operation with police.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and police inspected catering premises during the long weekend. Photo: GovHK.

Eleven fixed penalty notices of HK$5,000 each were handed out at one catering premises in Central that was suspected of violating group gathering rules.

A spokesperson from the FEHD said that authorities “will proactively take enforcement actions on an ongoing basis… [during] the upcoming two weeks” owing to the “multiple infection cases” in bars and restaurants.

As of Sunday, Hong Kong has recorded a total of 1,215,153 Covid-19 cases and 9,386 deaths since the pandemic begun.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.