Hong Kong authorities are walking back on a controversial dine-in ban and will allow restaurants to seat a maximum of two people to a table starting tomorrow.
The turnaround comes after pictures went viral yesterday—the first day of the ban—of people eating their lunch boxes on the backs of taxis, narrow ledges on the side of buildings or wherever they could set their food down. Some sought shelter on bridges when rain fell.
— UncleBob2020 (@UBob2020) July 29, 2020
When announcing the policy on Monday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said that people can take their lunches back to their offices or go to a country park to eat.
His offhanded comment prompted a barrage of criticism as many pointed out that tens of thousands of essential workers in cleaning, construction and other industries do not, in fact, have an office or a country park within reach.
Illustrations mocking the ignorance of many of Hong Kong’s top officials have circulated alongside the criticism. One drawn by local cartoonist Cuson Lo depicts Cheung and Chief Executive Carrie Lam enjoying a splendid feast in their first-floor office as construction workers eat outside in the pouring rain.
A government statement released last night said authorities acknowledged the “difficulties and inconvenience” of the dine-in ban, and would be providing “19 community halls or community centers in 18 districts during lunch hours from 11am to 3pm” for people to eat in.
The announcement came after a number of local businesses, including hair salons and currency exchange shops, said they would be opening their doors for (a limited number of) workers with nowhere to eat—provided they socially distance and leave once they are done with their meals.
According to reports, restaurants will be allowed to resume dine-in for breakfast and lunch, but not dinner—essentially reverting back to the earlier policy of only allowing takeout past 6pm.