Relaxation twist tightens Ani-Com visitor numbers

Top News | Jane Cheung 22 Jul 2021

The Ani-Com fair opening tomorrow at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre can only cater to half of its capacity - instead of 75 percent - in an ironic result from the government's latest "relaxation" for event organizers.

The policy starting today allows organizers of exhibitions and banquets to use the venues' full capacity if two-thirds of attendees have received at least one Covid-19 jab.

However, those who fail to meet the vaccination requirement will have to cap attendance to half of the venue's capacity, which is tighter than the previous limitation of 75 percent. The four-day Ani-Com event typically attracts tens of thousands of visitors a day, with tickets available on site.

Unable to ascertain how many attendees would be vaccinated, the organizer is left with the option of using 50 percent of the exhibition hall's capacity.

The organizer said there was no prior communication from the government and that the change would have a negative impact on business.

It urged visitors to check its Facebook page on the latest queuing situation at the HKCEC in Wan Chai so they can plan ahead. It also suggested coming after 4.30pm every day - though diehard fans usually think figures and limited edition goods would be sold out by then.

The Ani-Com was canceled last year.

Government officials yesterday created a new category of "event premises" for announcing social distancing measures covering venues for organizing business meetings, forums, symposiums, exhibitions, ceremonial and celebratory events plus weddings.

Ani-Com aside, the banquet industry also expected little boost from the "relaxation" as the threshold for two third guests to be vaccinated is difficult to achieve.

Ricky Leung Wai-kit of the Institution of Dining Art said: "It's always a good sign to have a relaxation, but the threshold of two thirds is too high. It's not easy to achieve, so the boost for businesses will likely be limited."

And a groom-to-be, named Fong, whose wedding banquet will be in October, said the policy is "awkward."

He asked: "Am I supposed to send invitations to relatives and friends with reply slips asking them if they have been vaccinated? Should I tell them not to come if they reply they have not and will not get the jabs? It's so embarrassing."

Fong also said Covid developments cannot be predicted months ahead, so he would rather stick with tighter rules in case the pandemic takes a turn for the worse.

Also on easing, starting from July 30 "cruise-to-nowhere" itineraries can resume if all crew members and passengers above 16 have been fully vaccinated. People unfit for the jabs must present a doctor's certificate and undergo Covid tests 48 hours before boarding a ship.

Other measures covering restaurants and bars according to the vaccination status of staff and customers and a four-person social gathering cap and compulsory masking in public areas remain effective.

Also yesterday, two visiting children of a ranking member of the Saudi Arabian consulate violated home quarantine and visited The Peak, Citygate and Ngong Ping 360 before testing positive for Covid after arriving on Tuesday.

But the two have diplomatic immunity and are unlikely to face consequences.

Still, experts called for a review of isolation arrangements for arrivals exempted from hotel quarantine.

Respiratory specialist Leung Chi-chiu said exemptions can apply to certain arrivals, but families coming to Hong Kong for visits should not be entitled to the same privilege.

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