Swimming pools and beaches will reopen gradually from Thursday as authorities give the green light to lower-risk activities ahead of the Easter holiday.
The secretary for food and health, Sophia Chan Siu-chee, also announced yesterday that churches are allowed to let more people join in religious activities for up to 30 percent of capacity, while the cap is 75 percent for theme parks, cinemas and performance venues.
But other curbs, including the dine-in ban after 10pm, closure of places such as party rooms, karaoke clubs, bars and bathhouses, and compulsory mask wearing will be maintained for 14 more days until April 14.
Chan said the fourth wave since November is gradually coming under control, with daily local cases dropping to below five in the past week.
The reopening of pools and loosening the four-person cap for churches and other premises are not a relaxation of controls, she said, but a minor adjustment for the sake of people's mental and physical health.
"That's why we are keeping most of the current measures and not opening more closed premises," she said. "If we relax social distancing measures before the Easter holiday, we may see a rebound afterward.
"Experts have said the coming 14 days are crucial and critical in terms of sustaining efforts to control the epidemic and, hopefully, to strive for zero cases."
Chan said the risk of the virus spreading in water is low.
The secretary for home affairs, Casper Tsui Ying-wai, said pools and beaches will come with a capacity cap of 30 percent and rules for swimmers to be masked when they are not in the water.
The allowed capacity for cinemas, theme parks and performance venues will be loosened to 75 percent from 50 percent. Attendees will have to stick to existing health measures including temperature checks, use of the LeaveHomeSafe mobile application and mask wearing, Chan said.
She said she would seek approval from the Executive Council today to exempt religious gatherings from the four-person cap and allow 30 percent of the venue's capacity while observing existing health rules from tomorrow at the earliest.
Tsui said the Home Affairs Bureau will announce details of regulations for different religions in due course.
The Hong Kong Theatres Association welcomed the easing, saying the five-day Easter holiday is peak season for cinemas and would be crucial to their survival.
Thomas Law Kwok-fai, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, said many have been yearning for church activities.
Hong Kong saw eight new cases yesterday, seven imported and one local infection from an unknown source, taking the tally to 11,455, including 205 deaths.
The case with an untraceable source is a 22-year-old male student from Baptist University.
He lives in block seven of Fullview Garden in Chai Wan, which has also seen a previous case living in the same unit on a different floor. Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection said all its residents had undergone testing.
Several dozen HKBU students have been sent to quarantine. The student coached football and 12 of his students and three fellow coaches were also isolated.
He also tutored a child at Westlands Gardens in Quarry Bay, sending him and his parents to quarantine.