The Hong Kong government announced on Thursday the details of the first phase of the relaxing of social distancing measures, starting April 21. It is the beginning of the plan to ease restrictions in a “gradual, orderly manner through three stages over a period of three months,” said Chief Executive Carrie Lam during her daily Covid-19 press briefing. While many rules will be relaxed, mandatory mask-wearing indoors and outdoors will remain.
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan announced the following changes to come into effect on April 21:
- Restaurants can open until 10pm.
- Premises under Cap. 599F such as fitness centres, beauty parlours, massage parlours, performance venues, billiard rooms, bowling alleys, skating rinks, amusement game centres, and religious places will reopen at 50% capacity.
- The limit on group seating at restaurants will increase from two to four.
- Banquets will resume; no more than 20 people will be allowed to attend.
- Cinemas will reopen and moviegoers can eat and drink as long as patrons and staff have received three doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, unless they have recently recovered from the virus or are exempt for medical reasons.
- The two-household limit on private gatherings under Cap. 599G will be lifted.
- Local tours will resume comprising groups of no more than 30 people. The limit can be increased to 100 people if all participants undergo rapid antigen tests (RATs) on the first day of the tour.
When catering premises reopen, all employees must take a RAT every three days before going in to work, in addition to being fully vaccinated. Bars and pubs will remain closed until the second phase of restriction-easing.
Sports venues, libraries, museums to reopen
Vincent Liu, director of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), announced that some government-run venues will also reopen on April 21. They include:
- Indoor leisure venues such as squash courts.
- Outdoor leisure venues such as sports grounds, tennis courts, bowling greens, basketball courts, children’s playgrounds, and fitness equipment.
- Public libraries, museums, and performance venues at 50% capacity.
Other LCSD venues like public swimming pools, beaches, and barbecue sites will not reopen in the first phase. From April 16, Hongkongers can use the LCSD app to make bookings for leisure venues (for no larger than groups of four, as per the Phase I relaxation). Exceptions will be made for certain team sports.
When all these venues reopen, they will be subject to vaccine pass arrangements. This means that anyone over the age of 12 has to receive at least one Covid-19 shot before April 29 and three shots by May 31 to enter certain premises unless they are medically exempt/have recently recovered.
Header image credits: BOKONGNAUTI Leapwo via WikiCommons