Coronavirus: Hong Kong to ease some Covid-19 social distancing measures

  • The government will announce plans to help residents stuck in mainland China and Britain return to the city
  • Beaches and swimming pools can reopen and travel bubble talks with Singapore have resumed, as an incentive to get people to take the vaccine

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Hong Kong didn't record any Covid-19 cases over the weekend, but is expected to see 10 mostly-imported cases today. Photo: AFP

Hong Kong is set to ease some social distancing measures, allow more residents to return to the city from mainland China without undergoing quarantine, and reveal plans to bring back the hundreds of Hongkongers stuck in Britain after a travel ban was imposed in December.

It also hopes to push for a new travel bubble arrangement as an incentive to increase the city’s Covid-19 vaccination rate.

Social-distancing rules are due to be relaxed further, increasing the number of people allowed in cinema screenings, reopening swimming pools and public beaches, and easing curbs against church gatherings.

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“People who have been and will be vaccinated will have the convenience of travelling abroad as a condition to start travel bubbles with other jurisdictions,” a source said. “And the government has made a commitment to bringing back Hong Kong residents from the United Kingdom as soon as possible.”

The developments were expected as the city faced about 10 new coronavirus cases on Monday, according to medical sources, though most of those were said to be imported.

Since last month, the government has resumed talks with Singapore for a travel bubble, which was cancelled at the eleventh hour when the fourth wave of Covid-19 hit Hong Kong in late November.

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The Return2HK programme, which was implemented last November and is set to be extended, allows Hong Kong residents to come back to the city without going through 14-day quarantine if they test Covid-19 negative in the prior 24 hours. It currently only applies to Guangdong and Macau, but authorities hope to expand it to include other mainland provinces.

Infectious diseases expert Dr Leung Chi-chiu urged the government to maintain its current level of social-distancing rules until after the Easter break.

“For the past two weeks, local new infections with unknown sources have been decreasing by half each week. This is the first time since the fourth wave we have seen this trajectory,” Leung told a local radio programme.

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“Things are going well, but I think it will be at least next week before no local unlinked cases can become a regular occurrence,” he added.

Leung said the dance cluster, which triggered the start of the fourth wave and infected 700 people, followed not long after authorities had loosened Covid-19 rules, adding it would not hurt to wait a little longer before doing so this time around.

Residents’ handling of the upcoming Easter break would be key, Dr Joseph Tsang Kay-yan told another radio show.

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