Hong Kong Rolls Back Social Distancing Measures

Cultural and recreational venues have reopened across the territory, and a nighttime ban on dining is no longer in force.

Photo: Cheung Yin/Unsplash

Tough Covid-19 restrictions that were first imposed in early January have finally been eased in Hong Kong, where infection numbers are dwindling as the city experiences the tail end of its fifth wave. This morning, Hong Kong moved into the first of three phases that will see social distancing rules gradually loosen over the next few months. Limits on the number of people in public gatherings have increased from two to four per group, and private settings can once again host more than two households at the same time. Masks must still be worn in all public settings, including outdoor spaces.

To the relief of the restaurant industry, the blanket ban on nighttime dining has been dropped: dine-in services are being extended until 10 p.m., with a maximum of four people seated at each table. Banquets that cater for up to 20 people may also be held. Most recreational and sporting venues, aside from beaches and swimming pools, have reopened, along with gyms, beauty salons, and massage parlors. Theme parks such as Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park are operating at reduced capacity, while gaming arcades and children’s playgrounds are no longer off-limits.

Cultural life can resume as performance venues, museums, and public libraries begin welcoming back visitors. Places of worship, like the popular Wong Tai Sin Temple in Kowloon, have been given the green light to reopen as well. Cinemas too are on the list, and food and drinks will be allowed in places where moviegoers and staff members alike have all received their booster shots. Bars and nightclubs do not have permission to resume operations until the next round of eased restrictions.

Largely driven by the Omicron variant, Hong Kong’s most devastating wave of Covid-19 infection has been marked by nearly 1.2 million confirmed cases and more than 8,900 deaths. Mandatory quarantines for international arrivals remain at seven days, and for the moment, only Hong Kong residents can enter the city from abroad.

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