The necessity of preventing the spread of Covid-19 inevitably means curtailing activities that provide employment. Social-distancing measures imposed during the fifth wave of the pandemic were among the toughest since the outbreak began and behind the worst jobless rate in a year. But while the preliminary 5.4 per cent figure for the period from February to April is worrying , it coincides with an unprecedented battle against the disease. Levels of infection have since plunged, knowledge and experience been gained, and coupled with an ever-higher vaccination rate and greater immunity, the stage would appear to be set for a recovery that gets the city back to work. An easing of social-distancing measures this month, the latest last Thursday with the extension of restaurant hours and reopening of bars, pubs and karaokes , will lift employment. Those are the rewards of getting vaccinated, higher rates of immunity and lower risks of infection, the requirements for a return to pre-Covid normality. The implementation of a third stage of the vaccine pass scheme at the end of the month will boost incentives to get a jab. Covid controls will remain strong, but the safer the city is from outbreaks, the better-placed it will be to further open up. Although the catering and entertainment sectors are in better shape, retail remains flat and the tourism and exhibition and convention industries are barely afloat. Quarantine requirements for travel to the mainland and return from overseas are hampering restoration of the pre-Covid boom years. The second phase of the consumption voucher scheme, involving HK$10,000 for every adult resident and scheduled to be rolled out in the summer, is bound to spur domestic spending. But high-level talks on the border reopening have all but ground to a halt in the transition from Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to chief executive-elect John Lee Ka-chiu, who as chief secretary, had been leading negotiations with mainland authorities. More than 200,000 people were out of work at the start of this month, a figure that will gradually fall as business confidence returns. But the days of traditionally low joblessness are unlikely until there is quarantine-free travel. Vaccination, vigilance and immunity hold the key.