Hong Kong sports minister confident Rugby Sevens, major snooker event will go ahead; city logs 9,787 new Covid-19 cases
- Hong Kong Marathon may not take place in spite of organisers accepting an entry field of 25,000 runners, down from the 37,000 they previously wanted
- Hong Kong Open badminton tournament was cancelled and the 2023 World Dragon Boat Racing Championships may move to Thailand
The Rugby Sevens and a major snooker tournament are expected to go ahead in Hong Kong as planned, but a decision on holding the city’s biggest annual marathon will have to take into account the Covid-19 risks the event poses to the public, the sports minister has said.
Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung on Saturday said the nature of the Hong Kong Masters snooker tournament and the “closed-loop” management of Rugby Sevens players would allow lower transmission risks.
“We are still organising [the snooker and rugby events] as scheduled. Tickets are already on sale for the Hong Kong Masters in October,” he told a radio programme. “As of today, we still feel we are confident the Hong Kong Masters and the Rugby Sevens can go ahead as planned.”
Yeung said the “closed-loop” arrangement for rugby players would prevent them from venturing beyond the competition site and their accommodation, while the athletes and spectators would be kept as far apart as possible during the games.
His comments came as health authorities confirmed 9,787 new infections, of which 185 were imported, and eight more deaths. The city’s Covid-19 tally stood at 1,642,941, with 9,788 deaths.
The snooker tournament is due to be held from October 6 to 9, and the Rugby Sevens between November 4 and 6.
But Yeung said public interests would be considered in relation to hosting the Hong Kong Marathon, scheduled for November 20.
The event organisers last week said they would accept being allowed an entry field of 25,000 runners, down from the 37,000 they previously wanted.
“Frankly speaking, the entire government wants to host [the marathon]. If we do not care about anything else, we can do it for sure. But we cannot do it,” Yeung said.
Yeung said that unlike the snooker and rugby games, where there were not many players from outside Hong Kong, the consideration for activities that involved many participants would be different.
“We have to consider the overall situation of society. If the caseloads soar after the race, other social-distancing measures will need to be considered at the time, and the impact may be even greater. Therefore, we need to strike a balance between the two, and there is no final decision for the time being,” he said.
The Hong Kong Badminton Association earlier cancelled this year’s Hong Kong Open badminton tournament, citing “no viable option” for the event because of the city’s strict Covid-19 border controls.
Meanwhile, the 2023 World Dragon Boat Racing Championships may move to Thailand.
Earlier this week, tycoon Peter Woo Kwong-ching and former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen added voices to calls for the government to release a time line of when travel curbs would be further eased, including scrapping hotel quarantine.
The policy implemented last month means that visitors must undergo three days of compulsory hotel quarantine and four days of at-home medical surveillance upon arrival. Previously, arrivals had to undergo seven days of quarantine in a hotel.
“After the ‘3+4’ model was implemented, many people came to Hong Kong. But the number of tourists coming to Hong Kong is not necessarily more,” Yeung said.
“At the end of the day, there is the ‘3+4’ model, preventing people from choosing Hong Kong when they travel.”
As of Saturday, Hong Kong-based aircrew on passenger flights are no longer required to spend three nights quarantining at a hotel. They need only take a polymerase chain reaction test and wait for a negative result at the airport, then undergo three days of medical surveillance at home.
Asked about the different rules for flight crew and travellers, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch at the Centre for Health Protection, said the airline employees were subject to a closed-loop arrangement when overseas, in which they avoid contact with the local community, meaning they presented a lower risk.