This story has been made freely available as a public service to our readers. Please consider supporting SCMP’s journalism by subscribing . The Hong Kong government has announced some of the toughest social-distancing rules since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in a bid to contain a surging fifth wave of infections. Here is what you need to know about the latest measures, and details of the vaccine pass that launched on February 24. Gatherings at public and private places How many people can gather in a group? The maximum number of people that can gather in public places has been reduced from four to two. The government also announced an unprecedented ban on gatherings of more than two households at private places, which includes any venue not readily accessible by the general public from time to time. The rule is based on households, not families, meaning that even if all guests at a gathering belonged to the same family, they would still be in violation if they lived in more than two different residences. Does the two-person rule mean I cannot go out with my family members if we are three or more? Public gatherings for family members who live in the same household are exempted. The cap does not apply to families with more than two members. How many people can gather at private places? There is no limitation on the total number of people allowed to gather at private places. However, no more than two households are allowed at one time. That rule also applies to house calls for services such as haircuts and tutoring sessions. Carers, however, are exempted. Can I still work with my colleagues at the office? Yes, you can. Although an office is a private place, exemption is given to people who gather for work purposes only. Two-thirds of Hong Kong poor families report losing one job to pandemic: poll Can I take a taxi with friends from different households? Yes, you can. Taking a taxi or carpooling for transport purposes is exempted. Will officers come to my flat and check if I have violated cross-family gathering rules? No. Officers will not “proactively” enforce the law by checking door to door. But if people involved in cross-family gatherings are infected with Covid-19 and found to have breached the rules in an epidemiological investigation, they will be prosecuted. The regulation that prohibits group gathering does not authorise officers to enter private premises, but authorities can invoke other regulations for investigation, such as reviewing CCTV footage to confirm if a suspected offence has taken place. Vaccine pass What is a vaccine pass and when will it be launched? The scheme involves a vaccination paper certificate or an electronic one available through your phone’s “Leave Home Safe” Covid-19 risk-exposure app and which will allow you to enter government venues and 23 other types of premises starting on February 24. Where does the vaccine pass apply? Does it cover public transport? Apart from restaurants, the vaccine pass will be applied at the following locations: shopping malls, department stores, supermarkets, wet markets, hair salons, religious establishments, amusement game centres, bathhouses, fitness centres, amusement centres, places of public entertainment, party rooms, beauty parlours, club houses, nightclubs, karaoke establishments, mahjong-tin kau premises, massage establishments, sports premises, swimming pools, hotels or guest houses, cruise ships and temporary event venues. The government has yet to extend the pass to cover public transport. How will authorities ensure a vaccine pass is used? For restaurants and venues with fewer patrons, people will be required to show their vaccination certificate or to scan their pass on the “Leave Home Safe” app before entry. For places frequented by a large number of customers, such as supermarkets, malls and wet markets, random inspections will be conducted by officers. Only 1 in 10 Hong Kong parents willing to let children get Covid-19 shot Can I use my paper vaccination record? Yes, both electronic and paper vaccination records are accepted. But venue operators will be required to scan the QR code on the paper record. Are children required to use a vaccine pass? Exemptions will only be given to children below 12 and people who have medical certificates that prove that they are unfit for vaccination. What if I must go through a shopping mall to go to work or return home? Is a vaccine pass a must? Reasonable excuses to be exempted from the rule include passing through a shopping mall to return home or go to work. But people working in the shopping mall are not exempted. Exemptions will also be given to those with reasonable justification such as entering the shopping malls just to get takeaway, retrieve belongings or to get tested or vaccinated. People attending government, legal or medical appointments will also be exempted. Coronavirus Hong Kong: who is eligible for home isolation and how does it work? Do I need more than one dose to qualify for a vaccine pass? The vaccine pass requirement will be tightened in three stages. The first stage started on February 24, which requires everyone aged 12 or above to have received at least one dose of vaccine. The second stage will begin in late April. All adults must have taken their second jab, while only one dose of vaccine is required for people aged 12 to 17. The final stage is set for late June. People over 18 who have received their second shot at least nine months prior will be required to take their booster. Teenagers aged between 12 and 17 must have taken at least two doses of vaccine six months after their first inoculation. What is the penalty if I fail to present my vaccine pass at the premises? The penalty is fixed at HK$5,000 (US$642). It is also applicable to staff and visitors who fail to scan or show the vaccine pass at the premises. Other social-distancing rules How many diners can sit at a table? The government tightened social-distancing rules as Covid-19 cases continued to climb, limiting the number of diners per table at all restaurants to two from February 24. What premises are open? Hair salons will reopen from March 10, with the rules to be reviewed by March 23, while other premises such as beauty parlours, gyms, swimming pools, entertainment facilities and religious places will remain closed. Do I need to wear a mask outdoors? Starting from February 24, mask-wearing will be required in all public places, even in country parks or when exercising outdoors. Masks cannot be taken off for eating and drinking on public transport, including ferries/ kaitos , and in MTR paid areas. Can my employer fire me if I am not vaccinated or if I am absent from work because of a compulsory test or lockdown? Yes. The employment laws will be amended soon. Employees who are fired for not adhering to vaccine pass rules will not be treated as having been unfairly dismissed, while residents affected by lockdowns and quarantine orders will be eligible to apply for sick leave. Is there any financial support if I lose my job due to the pandemic? A sixth round of anti-epidemic relief funding of HK$27 billion was approved by lawmakers on February 15. Under the scheme, those suffering short-term unemployment will get a one-off HK$10,000 handout, while those on the pandemic front line such as cleaners, security guards and airport cargo workers will receive a monthly stipend of HK$2,000 for five months from February.