Hong Kong authorities inspected 165 bars and pubs, including several in nightlife district Lan Kwai Fong, on the first Friday and Saturday since a new rule requiring customers to show a negative Covid-19 rapid test result came into force.

police inspect lan kwai fong bars
Hong Kong authorities inspecting restaurants and bars in Lan Kwai Fong. Photo: Hong Kong police.

Ten bars found to have breached Covid-19 regulations were ordered to shut for seven to 14 days, according to the government.

The Food and Environmental Health Department and police officers checked 1,123 catering premises – among them 58 bars on Friday and 87 on Saturday – to ensure that businesses were in compliant with Covid-19 regulations.

Six bar customers suspected of breaching the rapid test requirement were issued fixed penalty notices of HK$5,000. Fines were also handed out to 27 customers suspected of breaching the cap on the number of diners per table at catering premises.

lan kwai fong coronavirus virus covid (1)
File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Authorities announced last week that starting Thursday, people would be required to show a picture of a negative Covid-19 rapid test result – with their name, the date and time written on it – in order to enter bars. The new rule came amid a number of cases of Covid-19 linked to nightlife establishments in the Central and Sheung Wan area.

Carbone, an Italian restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong, said in an Instagram post on Saturday that it would be serving “lunch only” for the next 14 days following an inspection.

Hong Kong recorded another 1,276 Covid-19 cases on Sunday, including 115 imported infections. The city has recorded five consecutive days of caseloads exceeding 1,000.

Albert Au of the Centre for Health Protection said during a Sunday press conference that while the number of daily infections had risen gradually, there was “no evidence supporting an exponential increase.”

The number of seriously ill patients remained low, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said last Friday, and hospitals were not overstretched.

A blow to business

Industry representatives have criticised the government’s move requiring customers to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test to enter bars, citing its impact on already struggling businesses.

Allan Zeman, chairperson of the Lan Kwai Fong Association, called the measure an “overreaction.”

Allan Zeman
Allan Zeman. Photo: HKFP.

“Realistically there’s only been about 360 people that have been infected in the bar industry out of probably around 10,000 totally,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“I can tell you if it goes on longer than two weeks, many [businesses] won’t survive. I’ve seen it happen last night. A lot of people are not going out. A lot of people are staying home,” he said, adding that he estimated 20 per cent of bars could be forced to shut down because of the rapid test requirement.

Ben Leung, charter president of the Licensed Bar and Club Association of Hong Kong, said last week he feared that the requirement would drive people away from bars and to restaurants, where customers would not need to have taken a Covid-19 rapid test.

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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.