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Working Group on air change or air purifiers in catering premises holds another meeting in view of latest epidemic developments
     The Secretary for Food and Health stipulated in March last year a requirement on air change or air purifiers to be complied with by dine-in catering premises in the directions in relation to the catering business under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Requirements and Directions) (Business and Premises) Regulation (Cap. 599F). The Working Group established for the smooth implementation of the requirement held an online meeting again yesterday evening (May 30) in view of clusters of infection cases at bars recently. The Chairman of the Working Group, expert members and representatives from the government departments were briefed by departments on the respective inspection findings at the premises, and discussed the latest epidemic developments and offered views on anti-epidemic strategies.
     The Working Group has examined the two clusters of infection cases emerged between the night of May 21 and small hours of May 22 that were related to bars, including the cumulative number of confirmed cases up to May 30, and known information on their air change and air purifiers.  Members noted that there were inadequacies with their ventilation systems.
     During the meeting, the Working Group confirmed the various directions on enhanced anti-epidemic effort agreed upon the last meeting, including:
(a) reiterating the request to catering premises operators to seriously check whether their ventilation systems are functioning properly, to the effect that the amount of outside air supply at the premises would be at least 17 cubic metres per hour per person and should evenly cover all zones of the seating area as far as possible;
(b) preparing an routine action checklist on ventilation systems and air purifiers for reference and follow-up by catering business operators and ventilation works contractors;
(c) preparing a tutorial video on the routine action checklist on ventilation systems and air purifiers for reference and follow-up by catering business operators and their hygiene managers and hygiene supervisors; and
(d) encouraging ventilation works contractors to advise catering business operators and their hygiene managers and hygiene supervisors on application and operation matters and points-to-note regarding ventilation systems and air purifiers in the context of their after-sales services.
     For item (b), the action checklist has been uploaded to the webpage of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) (www.fehd.gov.hk/english/licensing/guide_general_reference/Action_Checklist_20220530_e.pdf) after review by the Working Group.
     The Chairman of the Working Group, Professor Yuen Pak-leung, said, "Operators of catering business premises, including bars/pubs, should seriously check the ventilation systems of their premises, to ensure their effective operation, sufficient fresh air supply and even coverage of all zones of the seating areas. If necessary, they should seek assistance from professionals, such as a registered specialist contractor (ventilation works category) (ventilation contractor). The target of the Working Group and the Government is to strengthen the handling of cases with a higher risk under a risk-based approach.

     "All catering business premises operators must, on an ongoing basis, maintain and repair the fresh air supply systems and devices properly and switch on and operate the systems and devices when the premises are open for business," he continued.
     The FEHD also reminded catering premises operators that apart from complying with the directions under Cap.599F, they are also required to comply with the stipulations under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) that the ventilating system of all licensed catering premises must provide the premises with an amount of outside air of not less than 17 cubic metres per hour per person.

     In addition, according to the directions of Cap. 599F, live performance and dancing activity are not allowed in catering premises (including bars/pubs). Whether individual activity is classified as live performance depends on relevant facts and individual circumstances. Persons responsible for carrying on a catering business contravening directions under Cap. 599F are liable to be prosecuted and, upon conviction, to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months.
     Persons who are present at catering premises or other specified premises must comply with requirements applicable to them. These include the directions under Cap. 599F on the restrictions on group gatherings (such as maximum number of persons at a table), and requiring the wearing of a mask while not eating or drinking at a table. Offenders are subject to a maximum fine of $10,000, or paying a fixed penalty of $5,000 for discharging the liability associated with the offence.
     The Working Group reiterates its calls for the catering sector, other sectors and members of the public to continue to comply with the relevant regulations on prevention and control of disease in a concerted and persistent manner to protect personal and public health. In addition, as vaccination is a very crucial part of the local anti-epidemic strategy, the Working Group also encourages the public who have not yet received vaccination to get vaccinated as early as possible for better protection of their own health as well as that of the public.
Ends/Tuesday, May 31, 2022
Issued at HKT 21:17
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