Daily Covid-19 infection numbers have not fallen sufficiently for Hong Kong to ease social-distancing restrictions for the Lunar New Year. But there is good incentive to closely follow preventive measures throughout the festive season with the promise that should the downward trend continue, there will be significant relaxation starting on February 18. To brighten the mood further, the government’s vaccine advisory panel tentatively found the efficacy and safety of the jab produced by Chinese firm Sinovac acceptable. The epidemic that has changed lives so much is still far from being vanquished, but there is now greater reason for hope and optimism. Authorities had already announced ambush-style lockdowns and testing at buildings where infections were detected would not continue during the new year break. How much further infections would have to fall for the relaxed measures to be implemented was not defined. But the figures have on average fallen by 60 per cent from peaks since the fourth wave of the disease began in November. There were just 17 confirmed cases yesterday, four untraceable. Hong Kong to ease Covid-19 social-distancing rules after holiday It will not be possible for families to celebrate the new year as they usually would with the tight Covid-19 measures. But they have every reason to follow the rules; low infection numbers would enable restaurants to stay open until 10pm with four people instead of two sitting at tables. A host of businesses such as fitness centres, beauty and massage parlours and entertainment venues and attractions, including theme parks and museums, would also reopen. There would be new requirements, though – staff would have to undergo regular testing for Covid-19 and to enter premises, patrons would have to download and scan the government’s app to trace Covid-19 cases or give contact details. Sinovac’s vaccine was determined to be safe and offer sufficient immunity after study of data, although more information has been requested before final assessment. The Pfizer-BioNTech jab has already been approved, so the possibility of mass immunisation starting soon draws closer. The developments yesterday are welcome and cause for a more joyous celebration of the new year – although with strict adherence to social distancing.