The pendulum that has seen Hong Kong’s Covid-19 curbs tightened, relaxed and tightened again is about to swing back in the direction of lighter measures. This will provide welcome relief for the city’s exhausted residents. People will be permitted to enjoy the simple pleasure of dining in a restaurant after 6pm for the first time in months. Sports facilities, gyms, museums and theme parks are among the venues that can reopen this week. The ban on private gatherings of more than two households will be removed. This is not a return to normal life. It is the first phase in the lifting of restrictions that could be imposed again if cases surge. But the chance of a little entertainment after so much time spent at home amid the city’s worst outbreak will, no doubt, be seized. Why some measures are lifted and others remain is, as usual, difficult to understand. You can skate and play basketball, but not go for a swim. You can get drunk in a restaurant, while bars remain closed. A party at home is allowed, but no more than four can gather in public. Those with three jabs can even eat popcorn in cinemas, but going to the beach is forbidden. Athletes will be delighted that sports facilities are opening. But masks must be worn, even for team sports. The requirement conflicts with advice given by the World Health Organization. It is bizarre that it has not been lifted. But for all the grumbling, the easing of measures is a welcome sign that Hong Kong is moving in the right direction again after the disastrous epidemic that hit the city early this year. Covid-19 cases fall below 800 for first time in 9 weeks in Hong Kong The death toll, around 200 when this “fifth wave” began, is now more than 9,000. Daily case numbers soared to 50,000 during the peak of the crisis in March. Health services were overwhelmed. Hopefully, the worst is over. The number of new cases fell to below a thousand on Friday for the first time in two months. There has been a clear shift in thinking over the course of this latest outbreak. When cases surged, a mainland-style lockdown was feared. A compulsory mass-testing exercise seemed imminent. This prompted many residents to flee Hong Kong. Thankfully, good sense prevailed and the more extreme measures were avoided. Hong Kong has escaped the full-on lockdown experience currently being endured in Shanghai. The government should be striving to return people’s lives to normal as quickly as possible. Having suffered a nightmare for which it was ill- prepared, the city is now in much better shape. Only 5 million people had received at least one jab on January 8. Now, that figure is higher than 6.5 million, more than 92 per cent of people aged over 11. There is still much work to do with the most vulnerable. Little more than 60 per cent of children aged three to 11 and those over 80 have had a jab. It is good to see that a citywide home vaccination programme is being launched. It is long overdue. Pure Yoga closes Hong Kong studio as pandemic ‘changes fitness landscape’ Meanwhile, there are more hospital beds available for Covid patients and new isolation facilities. Steps have also been taken to better protect the elderly in care homes. If this had all been done earlier, lives would have been saved. Hong Kong has learned the hard way. The better protection provided by these measures should now provide the platform for the further lifting of restrictions. More than two years of Covid-19 curbs have taken an increasingly heavy toll on people’s lives and livelihoods. Students have seen their education disrupted, families have been split, businesses have crashed and people have lost their jobs. The city is facing a mental health crisis. Saving lives is always the priority. But it is the lives of all that matter, not just those who catch the virus. Quality of life is important, too. We have had enough of what was initially described as the “new normal”. A touch of the “old normal” is what is needed now.