Schools, bars, gyms to reopen as gov’t relaxes COVID-19 restrictions

Current anti-epidemic measures only permit four people to a table at restaurants and cafes. 
Photo: Hong Kong Government
Current anti-epidemic measures only permit four people to a table at restaurants and cafes. Photo: Hong Kong Government

In light of the city’s dwindling number of locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced a number of amendments to Hong Kong’s social distancing rules — including but not limited to the reopening of schools, bars, and gyms, as well as relaxed restrictions on in-restaurant dining.

Earlier today, Lam remarked that “the time [has come] for some relaxation” of government-imposed restrictions. During her weekly Executive Council meeting this afternoon, Lam detailed the government’s plans to relax a number of anti-epidemic measures, but cautioned that strict regulations could come back if the city saw another spike in COVID-19 cases down the line.

Starting from 12am on Friday, the restrictions on public gatherings will be relaxed, allowing people to congregate in groups of up to eight people. Likewise, the number of people allowed to dine at the same table at restaurants and cafes will be doubled from four to eight.

However, catering businesses are still required to conduct temperature checks for all patrons, provide hand sanitizer, and either space tables 1.5m apart or provide partitions between tables. These restrictions will stay in place until May 21 at the earliest.

Seven types of the scheduled premises which were ordered to shut at the beginning of April will soon be allowed to reopen. Starting from 12am on Friday, gyms, game centers, beauty parlors, mahjong parlors, massage parlors, places of public entertainment (e.g. cinemas, concert halls, etc) and places of amusement (i.e. skating rinks, bowling alleys, and pool halls) will all be allowed to resume business. Upon reopening, these businesses will be required to conduct temperature checks, provide hand sanitizer, and ensure that their customers are sufficiently spaced out. Further details will be released when Secretary for Food and Health’s directions are issued.

The bar ban will also be lifted on Friday, though bars will be required to comply with general public health regulations as well as further restrictions, such as a cap on the amount of customers allowed on the premises and a ban on live music, dancing, or other performances.

Bathhouses, karaoke lounges, party rooms, and nightclubs have been ordered to stay closed until May 21 at the earliest.

Following the final DSE exams on May 25, schools will begin to reopen on May 27. The government has taken a staggered approach to reopening schools, with F3 to F5 classes resuming on May 27, P4 to F2 classes resuming on June 8, and K3 to P3 classes resuming on June 15. K1 and K2 classes will not be resuming this school year. In order to protect the health and safety of staff and students, schools will adopt a number of precautionary health measures.

Lam also officially announced a scheme to distribute free reusable face masks to all Hong Kong residents. Anyone with a valid HKID is eligible to receive a free “CuMask” (which derives its name from its copper lining) and can register for the scheme starting from 7am tomorrow. In addition, the government pledged to send a box of 10 disposable face masks to every household in Hong Kong, no registration necessary.

This post will be updated as more details come in.

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