Hong Kong to relax some Covid-19 social distancing measures and allow contact sports

  • The four-person rule on public gatherings is unlikely to change, as the city records double-digit coronavirus cases again
  • The global total of deaths from the pandemic has passed 1 million
South China Morning Post |

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A group of elderly men sit across from each other behind metal barricades. Hong Kong is still trying to snuff out a third wave of Covid-19, with daily cases on a general decline. Photo: SCMP/ K. Y. Cheng

Hong Kong will relax some of its Covid-19 social distancing measures, allowing large gatherings for religious activities and contact sports, but keeping its four-person limit on public groups.

The city recorded 10 new Covid-19 infections on Monday, the first double-digit increase in more than a week of improving figures, even as the global total of coronavirus-related deaths crossed the grim milestone of 1 million, according to some counts.

A source familiar with the situation said that current social-distancing rules were “very unlikely” to be ditched, as local transmissions of unknown origin were still being found in the community. 

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However, minor tweaks were likely, including exemptions for religious gatherings and contact sports such as basketball and football, with games to be played without masks, a shift backed by at least one government public health adviser. 

It is understood the Home Affairs Bureau spent weeks lobbying for changes to the rules governing sports activities as the pandemic eased locally, but the final decision will be hammered out at Tuesday’s meeting of the Executive Council, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s cabinet. 

Some fee-charging public venues for team sports, including football pitches, cricket grounds and indoor basketball courts, have already been open since September 18. Masks were earlier no longer required for strenuous outdoor exercise. 

Others, however, including outdoor basketball courts run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, remain closed due to a lack of staff to enforce social-distancing measures.