When it's OK - and not OK - to group together

Top News | Amy Nip 30 Mar 2020

Queuing for buses or standing outside a restaurant to wait for takeaways would not constitute a "social gathering," authorities clarified in the frequently asked questions section on the official Facebook page.

With new social distancing rules coming into effect yesterday, government officials went on @TamarTalk.hk to come up with more daily life examples of limiting social gatherings in public areas to four people.

"Generally speaking, a social gathering means a group of people gathering for a specific purpose, [with] factors such as whether anyone organizes the gathering and if attendants interact with each other," it stated.

"The duration of the gathering would be considered."

Waiting in line for public transport does not constitute social gathering, nor does using a lift or crossing the road with others.

If there are five or six family members from the same household going to a park or on a shopping trip the outing would not be considered a social gathering. Likewise, people living in one household going grave sweeping together is permitted.

But it would be different for big families whose members do not live together. Then, family members should split up and go in groups of four at a time.

Working in offices is exempted from the social gathering rule.

For trades that involve working outside offices, situations are considered on a case-by-case basis.

But a gathering of more than four people at one table in an office canteen is banned as canteens are subject to same rules as other eateries.

Mahjong, karaoke and massage parlors and religious institutions can continue to run, but the same "rule of four" applies.

Sales events for new properties are covered by the same restrictions.

As for how "public space" is defined, that can be anywhere where members of the public can enter most of the time.

If a private property allows visits by the public then it would be considered a public space.

In a public social gathering of more than four people guests and organizers could be breaching the law.

And people who operate venues and allow the illegal gatherings to take place can also be held accountable.

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