Two rounds of easing have been announced, the first effective 5 May which sees water activities resuming, and the second effective 19 May, which will likely see longer dine-in hours as well as partial resumption of nightlife.
The post-Labour Day holiday brought some cheer to Hong Kong residents with the Government's announcement in the form of easing of social distancing measures effective 5 May 2022 (Thursday), and further (second stage of) relaxation in measures due 19 May 2022 (Thursday) onwards.
A total of three social distancing measures are being eased effective 5 May, namely:
- Dining limits raised: Raising the current maximum number of persons per table in catering premises from four to eight;
- During 5 to 18 May, banquets with no more than 20 persons will be allowed in catering premises;
- [Click here for requirements and restrictions on catering business and scheduled premises applicable from 5 to 18 May 2022]
- Water activities to resume: Allowing swimming pools to re-open on the conditions that users must wear masks at all times save for exercising or taking a shower etc. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) will also be gradually re-opening gazetted beaches, water sports centres and public swimming pools under its management; and
- Outdoor masking optional: Citizens are allowed not to wear masks when they are present in outdoor areas of country parks, conducting strenuous physical activity in outdoor public places, or exercising in outdoor sports premises.
As for the plan going forward, the HKSAR Government has said: "Unless there is a substantial rebound or drastic change in the epidemic situation, the Government will implement the second stage of relaxation in social distancing measures starting from May 19 as scheduled."
A total of five social distancing measures are expected to be relaxed in the second stage effective 19 May, namely:
- Longer dine-in hours: The dine-in service hours allowed for catering premises will be extended to 11.59pm;
- Nightlife resumes partially: Bars / pubs can be re-opened with service hours up to 1.59am and a maximum number of four persons per table, as well as a restriction of patrons to 75% of their capacity. Live performance and dancing activity are not allowed;
- More premises to operate: The remaining scheduled premises regulated under Cap. 599F which are currently closed can be re-opened. These premises allowed to reopen include:
- Premises (i.e. party rooms) that are maintained or intended to be maintained for hire for holding social gatherings;
- Establishments (i.e. clubs or nightclubs) that are open late into the night, usually for drinking, and dancing or other entertainment;
- Karaoke establishments;
- Mahjong-tin kau premises; and
- Cruise ships (i.e. suspension of cruise-to-nowhere itineraries). The Government is now updating the anti-epidemic requirements for cruise-to-nowhere itineraries, and will shortly inform cruise operators to facilitate their resumption of the trips.
- Local group tours with no more than 30 persons may continue to be conducted. If all tour participants have conducted RAT on the same day before the commencement of local group tour activities, the relevant restriction on the number of participants will be relaxed to 100 persons.
- [Click here for requirements and restrictions on catering business and scheduled premises applicable from 19 May to 1 June 2022]
- Capacity limits increased: The restriction of the number of persons allowed in premises such as cinemas, performance venues, museums, event premises and religious premises, etc. will be relaxed to 85% of their capacity. In addition, eating and drinking will be allowed in cinemas;
- Starting from 19 May, the maximum number of persons in a banquet will be raised to 120.
- Masking options during exercise: Citizens are also allowed not to wear masks when they are exercising in indoor sports premises, as well as fitness centres which meet the requirement on air change.
[Click here for the list of catering businesses exempted from the requirement to cease selling or supplying food or drink for consumption on the premises of the business]
The Hong Kong Government has previously shared plans to adjust social distancing measures in three stages. The confirmation on the plans for May 2022 come as the number of daily new cases has been on a continuous downward trend without any salient sign of rebound, coupled with Vaccine Pass requirement for the fully-vaccinated to enter relevant premises since 30 April.
As such, all catering premises, bars / pubs and scheduled premises will continue to implement the Vaccine Pass arrangement as well as the LeaveHomeSafe mobile app. Further, the third stage of Vaccine Pass will be implemented effective 31 May 2022, whereby the requirement for entering premises applicable to Vaccine Pass will be raised to three doses of vaccine.
The statement reminds: "Eligible persons, especially for the elderly aged 60 or above, should also receive the fourth dose of vaccine as quickly as practicable to substantially reduce the risk of severe cases or deaths, thereby protecting themselves and their family members."
Measures that see no change for the moment include:
- A person must wear a mask all the time when the person is boarding or on board a public transport carrier, is entering or present in an MTR paid area, or is entering or present in a specified public place.
- Unless exempted, group gatherings of more than four persons in public places will remain prohibited. The requirement is also applicable to group gatherings in catering premises, bars / pubs and scheduled premises regulated under Cap. 599F in which the relevant requirements or restrictions are not complied with.
A Government spokesperson said, "The Government will continue to closely monitor the epidemic development and adjust the social distancing measures in a timely manner, so as to gradually and orderly allow citizens’ daily lives to resume normalcy under a stable epidemic situation."
Photo / HK Gov video