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The Hong Kong government announced yesterday that it will further relax social distancing measures, effective on Friday. The number of people allowed in group gatherings in public places will increase from two to four, so does the number of customers allowed per table in restaurants. However, restaurants are still bound to operate at a maximum of 50% capacity. 

Additionally, entertainment facilities such as mahjong parlours and gaming centres and most indoor sports facilities except swimming pool will be open. Wearing masks is still compulsory in public places.

“The third wave is entering two months already and we’ve yet to see an end to it. We still see new confirmed cases every day and there is quite a proportion of them with unknown sources. That goes to show we still have silent transmission chains in the community,” said secretary for food and health, Sophia Chan. 

If the COVID situation continues to remain under control, Chan expects reopening party rooms, nightclubs, karaoke lounges and swimming pools in the next stage, while secretary for commerce and economic development Edward Yau expresses his wish to further ease the social distancing rules in theme parks and exhibitions at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre next Friday.

Yau is currently negotiating travel bubbles with 11 countries including Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Thailand.

“We need to ensure that a coronavirus test – that is mutually recognised – can be carried out before travelling, and another verification is needed after arrival," he added.

“The timetable would be a matter of bilateral agreement between Hong Kong and the partnering country. It all depends on how ready and how comfortable both parties are with the situation. Now, the question of how ready is also a matter of whether we can agree on the protocol."

Hong Kong recorded six new cases on Tuesday, bring the city's tally to 4896.