Hong Kong Closes Bars and Gyms, Restricts Gatherings to Four

Entertainment venues and outdoor leisure facilities will be shut for a week from tomorrow, following a sudden spike in coronavirus cases over the past 10 days.

A partial view of the Hong Kong skyline at sunset. (Photo: nextvoyage/Pixabay)

In response to record numbers of locally transmitted Covid-19 infections—dozens of which were picked up from an unknown source—Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam announced last night that her government would reimpose social-distancing measures starting at 1 a.m. on Wednesday. Under the new regulations, 12 kinds of venues, including bars, nightclubs, cinemas, beauty parlors, and fitness centers, will have to close for the next seven days.

Restrictions are also being tightened for restaurants. Dine-in services will be suspended from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.; only takeout is permissible during those hours. In the daytime, no more than four diners can be seated at each table, and all eateries must operate at 50 percent capacity.

The limit on group sizes at public gatherings will be sharply reduced from 50 to just four people. This has prompted Hong Kong Disneyland to announce its indefinite closure starting tomorrow, though hotels in the resort area will still welcome local guests. The amusement park reopened only in the middle of June after shutting its doors for the previous five months.

A culture of wearing face masks has been ingrained in Hong Kong since the 2003 SARS outbreak, but as an extra precaution, masks will become mandatory for anyone taking public transport and taxis. Those without face coverings can be denied service and asked to disembark the bus or train or taxi.

The new restrictions also extend to government-run exercise venues. Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department will be closing all its outdoor leisure facilities: tennis courts, bowling greens, running tracks, sports pitches, and swimming pools are being shuttered for at least the next seven days, as are beaches, water sports centers, and holiday camps.

To relieve the pressure on the city’s limited quarantine facilities, all Hong Kong residents planning to return from high-risk areas must now show a certificate proving they have tested negative for Covid-19 before boarding the plane. Local health officials have identified Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and South Africa as high-risk areas due to their low testing rates.

Yesterday saw the territory’s caseload jump by 52 new infections, with 41 of those transmitted locally. Hong Kong plans to test around 400,000 people in areas of society that have been linked to the latest outbreaks, including taxi drivers and employees of restaurants and elderly care homes.

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