Hong Kong recorded another day without new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, while the government has announced that more entertainment venues can reopen this week and transit flights will resume next month.
The city extended its run without locally transmitted cases to 12 days, and its total number of infections remained at 1,065, with four related deaths.
Speaking ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said karaoke lounges, party venues, bathhouses and nightclubs would be allowed to reopen from Friday.
No more than four people will be permitted at each table in nightclubs, which must operate at half their usual capacity, while karaoke lounges and party venues can only allow a maximum of eight people into a room.
Nightclubs cannot stage live performances or dances, while sauna facilities in bathhouses will remain shut. All venues must ensure customers wear masks, check their temperature and provide hand sanitiser.
The venues were ordered to close in late March and early April as part of the city’s social-distancing measures to combat the virus.
The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) also announced the June 1 reopening of all 16 of its performance venues, including City Hall, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the Hong Kong Coliseum and Queen Elizabeth Stadium.
But those venues’ major facilities will be limited to rehearsal use and performances without live audiences through at least June 15. Graduation ceremonies originally planned for the venues will also be cancelled.
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To maintain infection control, the number of people allowed into such areas as rehearsal rooms, music and dance studios, lecture and function rooms will be limited to half their original capacity, with visitors subject to temperature checks and required to use hand sanitiser before entering.
Public programmes at 13 LCSD-run museums that previously reopened will remain suspended.
Lam said that because Hong Kong had recorded at least 20 days without locally transmitted cases in the past month, it was time for the government to relax its strategy.
“The secretary for food and health will issue a directive, allowing [businesses] to operate again. But they will have to satisfy some preventive measures, such as those for restaurants and fitness centres,” she said. “These would be part of our plan to gradually resume daily social-economic activities.”
Gyms, bars, cinemas and beauty salons were allowed to reopen earlier this month as the number of local infections dwindled.
Lam said transit flight services at Hong Kong International Airport, which were suspended on March 25, would resume from June 1. “It will be resumed appropriately … It won’t involve entry into the city or entrance restrictions,” she said.
The airport authority said all transit travellers would have to go through temperature screening.
Along with airport staff, they would also be required to wear masks, while the authority added that disinfection and cleaning had been stepped up since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Department of Health said those with a fever and who fulfilled the government’s reporting criteria, such as recent travel history to a virus hotspot, would be sent to hospital.
To help lure business travellers back from overseas, the Hong Kong Tourism Board will organise an online event to connect them with local tourism operators to discuss potential deals amid restrictions on global travel.
Kenneth Wong Cheuk-hung, the board’s general manager of MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) and cruise, noted travellers in his sector spent on average about HK$7,200 during their stay in the city last year, roughly 20 per cent more than normal tourists.
More than 70 hotels have also agreed to offer special packages to lure companies to hold meetings in Hong Kong, including allowing free use of meeting facilities.
Hotels may be eligible for subsidies when they book a group of business travellers fitting the board’s conditions on size and duration of stay. The scheme is expected to be rolled out in the next few months.
Separately, the Ngong Ping 360 cable car attraction will resume normal operation on Wednesday. Residents with a Hong Kong identity card can buy a round trip at half-price on weekdays until July 31.
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