Coronavirus curbs on a whole range of entertainment venues are being lifted from Friday.
At a press conference yesterday, Hong Kong’s Health Secretary Sophia Chan announced that swimming pools, bars, and all places of public entertainment—including theme parks and exhibition venues—could reopen under new rules set to take effect on Friday. The decision was made public soon after health authorities said no new locally transmitted Covid-19 infections had been recorded for the first time in over two months, with only four imported cases reported yesterday.
Hong Kong has ended a two-week voluntary mass testing scheme that found just 32 new cases of Covid-19 among a total of 1,783,000 people tested. In a government statement issued after midnight, a spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said the program had “helped further stabilize the epidemic situation” and provided “a more reassuring basis on which the social distancing measures can continue to be relaxed,” though he cautioned that it would not be possible to ease restrictions to the levels seen in June, before the third wave hit.
From Friday, the government will extend the hours for dine-in services at all eateries by another two hours until midnight, though some curbs from previous weeks will remain in place, including a limit of four people at each table and the total number of seats capped at 50 percent. Bars, pubs, and nightclubs have now been given permission to reopen, but are subject to the same half-capacity restrictions, with no more than two people seated at one table.
Meanwhile, karaoke parlors can resume operations with no more than four people allowed in each room, and all furniture should be cleaned and disinfected before and after each session. Patrons will have to sing with a mask on as facial coverings are a must at all times except when eating or drinking.
Visitor numbers at swimming pools will be limited to 50 percent of the pool’s designed capacity, with each group consisting of no more than four people. The government will also be relaxing certain restrictions on gyms, sports venues, and cinemas. Anyone exercising at outdoor sports premises will no longer be required to wear a mask, while those at indoor venues can exercise without a mask as long as they maintain a distance of at least 1.5 meters from other people. At cinemas, tickets will be sold for up to 75 percent of seats in each house; no more than four consecutive seats in the same row should be occupied.
Theme parks can operate at half-capacity, although ball pits must remain closed due to their high-contact nature. According to a report by public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), Ocean Park plans to welcome visitors this Friday, but Hong Kong Disneyland has not yet announced a tentative date for its own reopening.