- Increased coronavirus prevention measures mean no more dine-in services and a loss of income
- 250 restaurants in the city went out of business in June alone
Hong Kong’s struggling dining sector has called on the government to dish out HK$8 billion (US$1.03 billion) in handouts to rescue hard-hit restaurants, as a sweeping ban on all dine-in services is set to take effect on Wednesday.
An industry leader warned that without further financial aid from the government, thousands of operators might go out of business. The sector is facing a loss of HK$7 billion in August alone, as the city battles a third wave of Covid-19 infections.
On Monday, the government imposed unprecedented social-distancing measures, banning daytime dining at restaurants. A nighttime ban was put in place two weeks ago and still ongoing.
This came as the city recorded yet another daily high of 145 confirmed infections, the sixth straight day with more than 100 cases, bringing the tally to 2,778. Of the latest infections, 142 were local, also a new high.
At a regular press briefing by the health authorities on Monday, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, said the new dine-in rules could stem the Covid-19 surge.
Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, a Chinese University respiratory medicine expert who advises the government, said the latest measure was grounded in scientific evidence, as recent Covid-19 cases showed a possible pattern of transmission during mask-off activities such as at meals.
On Wednesday a complete ban on dine-in services will kick in. Photo: SCMP/ Sam Tsang
“Eating and chatting together is risky as people spit and spray their saliva everywhere, which may contain the virus,” Hui said.
Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, warned that the city’s eateries would lose HK$7 billion in revenue in August as a result of the complete ban on dine-in services, and he expected the regulation to last at least two to three weeks.
He urged the government to throw the industry another lifeline in terms of HK$8 billion in subsidies to tide it over for the coming month.
“This will be a devastating blow to the catering sector as not many eateries can offer takeaway and delivery services. Takeaways alone can’t make up for the losses in dine-in services,” he said.
“The industry can’t afford to bear this massive loss in revenue. The government needs to rescue them as quickly as possible, otherwise thousands of restaurants may be forced to shut down as they can’t cope with the rent and operating expenses without income.”
At present there are over 16,000 licensed eateries in the city. According to Openrice, an online restaurant guide, more than 250 Hong Kong restaurants went out of business in June alone.