Hong Kong to relax some Covid restrictions, allowing gyms, cinemas and sports venues to reopen on April 21

  • The cap on public gatherings will be increased from two to four people, and dine-in hours for restaurants will be extended to 10pm
  • Public beaches, pools and barbecue venues will remain shut for the time being

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Hong Kong will relax some of its strict social-distancing measures starting from April 21. Photo: Bloomberg

Beginning April 21, Hong Kong will start to ease social-distancing rules that have been in place for months, including extending dine-in hours for restaurants.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her officials announced the long-awaited plan on Thursday morning, detailing a phased exit from the restrictions imposed during the fifth wave of Covid-19.

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Public sports and cultural venues reopening

Leisure and sports venues operated by the Leisure and Cultural Services, such as basketball and tennis courts, will reopen. The venue capacity will depend on the team sport rules. For example, for basketball, up to five players per team will be permitted, and players must wear masks.

Children’s playgrounds will also be allowed to open.

Public libraries, museums and performance venues will operate at 50 per cent capacity.

Public beaches, pools and barbecue venues will remain shut.

Staff erect fences to block access to Shek O beach in Hong Kong. Photo: EPA-EFE

Eased gathering ban

People will be allowed to gather in groups of four instead of two in public places, if the Executive Council, Lam’s de facto cabinet, approves the decision next week.

A ban on gatherings of more than two households in private places will also be lifted.

More establishments to reopen

Sports venues, beauty and massage parlours, gyms, cinemas, game centres, theme parks and places of worship will be allowed to reopen. There will be a cap of four people per group. Bars and pubs will remain closed.

Food and drinks will be allowed in cinemas. All staff and customers must have received three doses of the Covid vaccine.

Restaurants will be allowed to operate dine-in services until 10pm, and the cap on patrons per table will expand from two to four. A maximum of 20 people would be allowed for banquets.

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Transmission risks

Health minister Sophia Chan Siu-chee said there has been a downward trend in the number of cases in the city, meaning many closed establishments could reopen from April 21.

Lam said this will bring some transmission risks, but the government had to strike a balance and she hoped the public could continue to uphold social-distancing measures.

“I hope the public will be more alert, especially during the coming Easter Holidays,” she said. “The public should continue to get vaccinated … The decision to relax curbs is not easy, and it will not be able to satisfy all stakeholders.”

Playgrounds are on the list of venues and facilities that will reopen on April 21. Photo: AP

Lam added that the government did not mean to punish these establishments, saying the purpose of these shutdowns was to minimise human traffic.

The government has spent some HK$600 million, roughly 20 per cent of the city’s gross domestic product, on various measures to support businesses, including specific subsidies for sectors and the second round of the Employment Support Scheme.

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