The government’s U-turn over a dine-in ban that prompted immediate backlash has further undermined its not-so-stellar record in combating the escalating wave of Covid-19 infections. We do not know whether officials truly felt sorry for workers having to eat their takeaway meals on roadsides or were forced into another knee-jerk response, this time because of mounting criticism for being inhumane and out of touch with people’s livelihood. But we trust they have learned a painful lesson that warrants deeper reflection on its strategies. Despite initial wavering responses and tensions with medical professionals, the government did, by and large, weather the first two waves of the outbreak. But with infections and deaths now reaching at least 3,150 and 25, respectively – many in just the past few weeks – the public is justifiably wondering what went wrong. Officials attributed the surge to people socialising again in recent months, but a university DNA study on the contagion shows quarantine exemptions for aircrew and seafarers maybe to blame. The government’s so-called “suppress and lift” approach may be a convenient defence for frequent adjustments in social distancing and other restrictions. But the latest about-face in the all-day dine-in ban is solid evidence of yet another ill-conceived measure. The swift emergence on social media of a list of shelters across the city where people can eat underlines a growing self-help mentality when people think the government has failed them. Regrettably, officials still refused to say sorry when experts in support of the sweeping ban backed down and apologised. The government has hastily opened community halls in various districts for eating and will, from today, allow two customers per table in restaurants during daytime. Quick U-turn as Hong Kong officials scrap ban on dining in restaurants People must stay vigilant of the risk when they opt for comfort and convenience during lunch. Social distancing and other health precautions must also be observed when non-government bodies offer their premises for people to eat lunch. Yesterday’s record 149 new cases, the ninth consecutive day of a triple-digit rise, should heighten a sense of urgency for more focused and effective measures. The conversion of the AsiaWorld-Expo in Lantau to house an initial 500 patients is a right response. But the public health care system will soon collapse if cases continue to rise. The public looks to the government for decisive, sensible and effective strategies. If an all-day dine-in ban caused an outcry, a complete lockdown would be even more unthinkable. The last thing officials want is public resistance. Instead of piecemeal reaction day by day, the authorities must carefully think ahead to win this battle. We cannot afford any more ill-conceived decisions.