Happy hour's back as local infections drop to zero

Top News | Mandy Zheng and Jane Cheung 16 Sep 2020

Local infections dropped to zero yesterday for the first time in 10 weeks - days before bars, karaoke clubs, swimming pools and Ocean Park reopen on Friday after a two-month shutdown.

Restaurants will also be able to operate until midnight on Friday but the limit of four per table will remain unchanged.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the zero local infection "signifies the third wave is contained" as authorities announced the relaxation of social-distancing measures for the fourth consecutive week.

All closed premises, including party rooms and bathhouses, will be allowed to reopen on Friday.

Ocean Park started accepting reservations from 7pm yesterday on its website for visitors to book a visit for groups of less than four people. Hong Kong Disneyland said it will announce its reopening date later.

But the relaxations come with conditions - no more than two people can share a table in pubs and four in restaurants. Theme parks can only have live performances outdoors. Party room customers should wear masks all the time except when eating. Also, no more than four people can stay in one room, and ball pits at such places should remain closed.

For swimming pools, there should be no more than four in a class, but people can take off their masks while swimming or warming up before entering the water.

While the social gathering cap is kept at four and the mask law remains in place, people working out are exempted from putting on a mask at gyms as long as they are over 1.5 meters away from each other.

But staff and coaches at fitness centers are still required to wear masks, with the rule of no more than four in a class remaining unchanged.

Lam said authorities have in mind a fifth stage of relaxation of curbs but "it will not come into effect shortly."

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said: "Although we are lifting the measures, people should not lower their guard, as experts have warned of a potential fourth wave in the winter." But she warned the extent of largely relaxed measures in June is unlikely to happen.

A woman surnamed Wong said she had not been to a karaoke lounge for six months and has already made plans with friends to do so.

"I'll take personal protection measures and have fun," Wong said. "I will bring an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, wear a mask and won't get too close to my friends while singing."

A man surnamed Cheng said: "Hongkongers have been hungry [for entertainment] for a long time, so I just hope people can be disciplined in disinfecting themselves."

He said he is worried that groups gathering at pubs could pose a high risk as they might get drunk and "play in some wild ways."

Housewife Chiu said she is concerned about the reopening of bars and that the government made the move too soon as infection numbers had just gone down.

"I feel even more scared now I'll only dine out every two or three weeks," Chiu said, adding that she does not plan to bring her children to swimming pools.

There were four new cases yesterday - all imported - after five days of double-digit infections, with the tally at 4,976. They comprised two men and two women, aged 32 to 43, arriving from Japan, the Philippines, Rwanda and India.

Yesterday was also the first time that no local infections were recorded since July 4 but the Centre for Health Protection said the number did not include patients diagnosed after midnight, including those picked up by the territory-wide test.

Sources said less than 10 preliminary positive patients are awaiting confirmation, including some locally contracted.

The death toll rose to 102 after a man, 69, passed away at Tuen Mun Hospital at 3.56pm yesterday.

The Yuen Long man was admitted to Pok Oi Hospital on July 30 for a fever and his condition had been worsening since August 5.

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