Hong Kong has further eased its Covid-19 social distancing measures as live entertainment returns to bars and clubs. The limit on public gatherings was also relaxed from four to 12 people on Thursday, following an announcement last week.

In all, live music was banned for over 650 days during the period of restrictions introduced in early April 2020, according to AFP.

lan kwai fong coronavirus virus covid (1)
Lan Kwai Fong during earlier Covid-related bar closures. File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Under Secretary for Health Libby Lee has said live performers at would have to abide by a number of regulations, including taking two Covid-19 PCR tests every week, as well as a rapid antigen test before entering the venue. They would also need to keep their masks on “as far as possible,” Lee said last week, and maintain a distance from the audience.

Strict social distancing measures have hit Hong Kong’s music industry hard, with a June survey by the Musicians Foundation finding that more than half of those employed in the industry suffered from anxiety and depression in the past year. A number of live-music venues have shut during the pandemic, including Peel Fresco and Sense 99.

Eating will also be allowed in the outdoor areas of theme parks as of Thursday.

‘Life restarts’

Allan Zeman, chair of the Lan Kwai Fong Group, told RTHK on Thursday that many live performers had left Hong Kong: “If there’s no live music, and DJs were not allowed either, you know, it was pretty tame in the bars… But I think that live music, you get that atmosphere back again, people go out, life restarts again. It kind of went to sleep for a while.”

Chief Executive John Lee gave no hints of further imminent relaxations of Covid-19 rules in his maiden Policy Address on Tuesday. Lee said last week that limits could be increased slowly once “the disease is controlled or the immunity of the public is kind of guaranteed.”

Hong Kong has seen 10,297 deaths since the onset of the pandemic. On Wednesday, the city reported 5,124 new Covid-19 infections, 390 of which were imported cases.

Additional reporting: Hillary Leung.

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Tom founded Hong Kong Free Press in 2015 and is the editor-in-chief. In addition to editing, he is responsible for managing the newsroom and company - including fundraising, recruitment and overseeing HKFP's web presence and ethical guidelines.

He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He previously led an NGO advocating for domestic worker rights, and has contributed to the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Al-Jazeera and others.