Hong Kong to relax some Covid-19 social distancing rules

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  • As the coronavirus pandemic begins to stabilise, some activities like local tours and wedding ceremonies will be allowed to resume
  • Chief Executive Carrie Lam said there were no untraceable infections in the city over the last three days
South China Morning Post |
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Hong Kong is to relax some social-distancing rules, the city’s leader said on Tuesday. Photo: SCMP/ Jonathan Wong

People in Hong Kong will be able to join local tours of up to 30 people each and wedding ceremonies of no more than 50 guests will be allowed starting from Friday, officials said on Tuesday.

But Hong Kong’s leader said the city, which has now recorded 5,261 confirmed infections, with 105 related deaths, had still not met the criteria for relaxing social-distancing measures on a broader scale.

Travel agencies taking advantage of the new rules must implement a series of infection-control measures while operating tours, or risk losing out on subsidies or their right to run groups locally.

Tour groups and wedding ceremonies were previously subject to caps of four and 20 people, respectively

At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, health minister Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said the government was adopting targeted measures in its bid to reduce virus transmission in the community.

“When adjusting social-distancing measures, we hope to avoid an all-or-nothing approach, and enhance cooperation with the sectors to enhance infection-control measures in related premises,” Chan said. 

The new arrangement, which comes into effect on Friday, will require tourists to wear masks throughout their trip, while the transport used can only be 50 per cent full. 

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The number of people allowed in business meetings, meanwhile, will be raised to 50 from the current 20, while team sports involving more than four people will once again be allowed in swimming pools. 

But the new rules for weddings will not extend to banquets, and no food and drinks will be allowed at ceremonies. All other social-distancing measures will remain in place for at least another week.

Speaking at the same press conference, commerce minister Edward Yau Tang-wah said all local tours must be registered with the Travel Industry Council. The travel agency would also need to sign an agreement with the council ensuring members of the tour group complied with a set of rules. 

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“Public health must be ensured in areas of itinerary, transport, dining, attraction visits and staff arrangements,” Yau said. “They must purchase health insurance for the tourists, record contact information of them … conduct temperature checks and ensure they wear masks throughout the trip.” 

Yau said involved travel agencies would also be eligible to apply for subsidy schemes from the government and the Tourism Board.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said while overall cases had been trending downward in the past week, there would be no major changes to current social-distancing regulations. 

“It’s a matter of prudence. We do not have the criteria to enter the next phase of relaxation of social-distancing measures at the moment,” Lam said. 

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