There is no bigger test for Hong Kong’s Covid-19 social-distancing measures than the city’s book fair. The event, being held at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai until Tuesday, is the first major public gathering since successive waves of the coronavirus were brought under control. Almost 1 million visitors attended when it was last held in 2019 and just 100,000 fewer are expected this year owing to restrictions that limit the venue’s capacity to 85 per cent. If it can be held safely and successfully in the midst of the global pandemic, we can have greater confidence to further relax rules and move closer to normality. Several previous attempts to hold the fair were thwarted by virus outbreaks, and there are fewer exhibitors this year owing to restrictions on overseas visitors and the economic impact of the pandemic, which has put some publishers out of business. Mainlanders, who usually account for 20 per cent of those at the event, are expected to be fewer in number. The imposition of the national security law a year ago has also led to a reduction in the amount of political material available, with some exhibitors exercising self-censorship and not risking possible legal action. But if attendance figures from the past few days are any guide, Covid-19 concerns and the law have not dampened the appetite for books. It may also have helped that the Trade and Development Council, which organises the fair, gave out 35,000 free tickets to those who have been vaccinated. Knowing that others are immunised makes for a safer environment in which to buy reading material, find bargains and meet authors. More restrictions can be eased when more people get their jabs. Hong Kong’s success in staving off Covid-19 enabled the return in May of Art Basel, which was attended by 30,000 people over five days, and saw some 7,800 football fans at the premier league final. But the book fair will be the biggest test yet of efforts to resume large-scale events. With so many people being in proximity over a week, preventive measures will be under close scrutiny. If those attending are kept safe, there is reason for authorities to consider further relaxations to enable life to move that much closer to normal.