Mask up: Government to raise fines for violating social distancing laws to HK$10,000

The new fines, a five-fold increase from the earlier fixed penalty, is meant to deter social gatherings. Photo via Hong Kong government’s Information Services Department
The new fines, a five-fold increase from the earlier fixed penalty, is meant to deter social gatherings. Photo via Hong Kong government’s Information Services Department

Offenders caught violating the city’s anti-epidemic laws, including the mask regulation and restrictions on gathering sizes, will soon have to fork up HK$10,000 (US$1,290).

According to a HK01 report on Wednesday, the government is expected to announce the fine increase shortly.

The new fine is a five-fold increase from the earlier fixed penalty of HK$2,000 (US$260), aimed at discouraging social activities as a fourth COVID-19 wave batters Hong Kong.

In a press conference on Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said “fatigue associated with this prolonged period of pandemic” has led to some ignoring restrictions.

Read more: 14 Hong Kong domestic workers fined HK$2,000 for violating social distancing laws

“[People] went out in groups, they did not wear their mask, they continued to enjoy themselves in parties. Even if party rooms were closed, they went to other private places to have parties. They danced in close contact,” Lam said, referring to a burgeoning cluster of over 550 virus cases linked to about two dozen dance venues across the city.

Lam added that many Hong Kong people are “very sensible and pragmatic,” but that higher fines are needed to deter gatherings.

The increase in penalties comes amid other measures that come into effect this week to curb the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Starting today, restaurants cannot offer dine-in services past 10pm and group gatherings larger than two people are banned.

Civil servants have also returned to working from home, and students have resumed at-home learning due to city-wide school closures.

Hong Kong recorded 103 today, marking the second time authorities are confirming a three-digit increase in the number of single-day infections since the recent wave began.

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