Update (5 May 2022): In a press release published after Carrie Lam’s press conference, it was announced that swimming pools will reopen gradually from 12 to 16 May, not 5 May as stated below. The reason stated was to conduct filtering, sterilisation, and water sampling to make sure the water quality is safe.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Tuesday at her weekly press briefing that the second phase of relaxing the city’s strictest anti-epidemic measures so far will start on May 19, and that some rules will be eased as early as May 5. Lam said the decision to lift some restrictions earlier than planned was made because the daily infection rate has consistently remained under three digits and is declining even after the first phase of relaxing social distancing measures began last month.

In addition, even though around 300,000 children returned to school starting April 19, relatively few students and teaching staff have tested positive for the virus on their daily rapid antigen tests.

What restrictions will be lifted on May 5?

Lam stated that the following three measures (originally scheduled to be eased in the second stage of relaxation) will be advanced by two weeks, taking effect on May 5:

  1. Swimming pools, beaches, water sports parks, and water parks will reopen.
  2. People no longer have to wear masks while playing outdoor sports like tennis and basketball, while jogging, and in country parks.
  3. The seating capacity per table at restaurants will be increased from four to eight.
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Which measures will be eased on May 19?

Since the start of the first phase of social distancing rule relaxation on April 21, certain venues under Cap. 599F – such as fitness centres, beauty parlours, massage parlours, performance venues, billiard rooms, bowling alleys, skating rinks, amusement game centres, religious places and cinemas – have reopened at 50% capacity.

Lam announced on Tuesday that from May 19, “all other scheduled premises under Cap. 599F, such as bars, bathhouses, party rooms, night clubs, mahjong-tin kau premises, etc. will reopen,” adding that there will be limits on their capacities.

Restaurants, which currently close at 10pm, will also be allowed to serve customers until midnight. Pubs and bars will be allowed to remain open until 2am, but can seat only four people per table. In addition, the number of people who can attend banquets will be increased from 20 people to 120.

Cinemas will be able to operate at 85% of their capacity and moviegoers can eat and drink on the premises. Currently, cinemas are at 50% capacity and can serve patrons food and drink only if staff and patrons have received three jabs of a Covid-19 vaccination.

Lam reiterated that anyone who wishes to enter these premises must have a valid vaccine pass and should get their Covid-19 vaccinations according to the schedule specified by the government.

Since May 1, Hong Kong also opened up its borders to non-residents, prompted by the receding of the fifth wave of Covid-19 infections. The authorities also reduced flight ban durations to five days for airlines that bring Covid-positive passengers into the SAR on certain routes. More quarantine hotels have been added and shorter isolation periods announced for aircrew in anticipation of more travellers coming to the city.

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Header image credits: Bertrand Duperrin via Flickr

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From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

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