Government suitably adjusts social distancing measures
Following the first and second stages of relaxation in social distancing measures since April 21 and May 19, all catering and scheduled premises have been allowed to re-open. However, with more frequent traffic and social interactions, the number of daily new cases in Hong Kong has recently resumed its climb showing an increasing risk in epidemic rebound. In particular, infection clusters have successively emerged in bars/pubs. Enforcement departments also identified incidences of non-compliance with epidemic control regulations by some premises operators and patrons during inspections. The situation has become rather alarming.
As announced by the Chief Executive on June 7, the Government will continue to closely monitor the trend of epidemic situation and will not implement the third stage of relaxation. During this month, the Government will largely maintain the existing social distancing measures, and for the purpose of better containing virus transmission, require all patrons of bars/pubs and clubs/nightclubs to present proof of a negative RAT result obtained within 24 hours before entering the relevant premises.
The Government also reminded citizens that, except for scenarios with exemption, the basic requirement for ordinary persons to enter premises applicable to Vaccine Pass is now three doses of COVID-19 vaccine (see implementation arrangements for Vaccine Pass). All persons-in-charge of specified premises are also required to put up a notice, whereas persons who enter premises under "active checking" should present the relevant QR code of their vaccination records, medical exemption certificates or recovery records to the persons-in-charge for checking. The arrangement for using "LeaveHomeSafe" mobile application in various premises will remain in place.
Furthermore, the Vaccine Pass arrangement has been implemented in designated healthcare premises under the Food and Health Bureau, the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority through administrative methods starting from yesterday (June 13) (see press release for details). If service users are not compliant with the Vaccine Pass requirements, they may present a negative result proof of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based nucleic acid test conducted with specimen collected within 48 hours before the visit in lieu of the Vaccine Pass, for receiving service at designated healthcare premises. Visitors (including carers of service users) are required to comply with the Vaccine Pass requirements in order to enter designated healthcare premises and cannot use a pre-visit test as an alternative arrangement. The Vaccine Pass arrangement is not applicable to healthcare premises providing emergency or urgent medical services.
In view of the latest epidemic development, the Government strongly urged citizens to continue to vigilantly observe all applicable social distancing measures. Eligible persons, especially the elderly aged 60 or above, should also receive the fourth dose of vaccine as quickly as practicable, whereas other persons should take the early opportunity to receive three doses of vaccine to substantially reduce the risk of severe cases or deaths, thereby protecting themselves and their family members before any potential change in the local epidemic.
Specific measures (see details of the restrictions under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Requirements and Directions) (Business and Premises) Regulation (Cap. 599F) in Annex 1) to be in force during the period from June 16 to June 29 include:
(I) Catering business
(1) From 0am to 4.59am, save for specific premises (see Annex 2), a person responsible for carrying on a catering business must continue to cease selling or supplying food or drink for consumption on the premises of the business, and close any premises or part of the premises (whichever is applicable) on which food or drink is sold or supplied by the business for consumption on the premises. The premises concerned may still sell or supply food and/or drink for takeaway services and deliveries. A person responsible for carrying on a catering business is also required to put up a notice at the entrance to the catering premises to remind patrons that food or drink should not be consumed in areas adjacent to the catering premises. The maximum number of persons per table for catering premises will be eight, and banquets with no more than 120 persons will be allowed. Live performance and dancing activity will remain prohibited therein.
(2) Bars/pubs may open from 5am to 1.59am of the subsequent day with a maximum number of four persons per table and the total number of patrons capped at 75 per cent of their capacity. Live performance and dancing activity will remain prohibited therein. All patrons of bars/pubs must present proof of a negative RAT result obtained within 24 hours before entering the relevant premises, otherwise they should be denied entry.
(3) Other requirements and restrictions on catering premises and bars/pubs will continue to remain in force, including that all patrons, when they are away from the table, must not consume food or drink and must wear a mask, and they must scan the "LeaveHomeSafe" venue QR code using the "LeaveHomeSafe" mobile application on their mobile phones/other mobile devices before entering the premises (excluding persons who only order takeaway). Operators of catering premises and bars/pubs are required to use the latest "QR Code Verification Scanner" mobile application provided by the Government to scan the QR code of a patron’s vaccination record, medical exemption certificate or recovery record.
(II) Scheduled premises
(4) For swimming pools, sports premises, fitness centres, beauty parlours and massage establishments, places of public entertainment, places of amusement, amusement game centres, event premises, religious premises, barber shops or hair salons, bathhouses, party rooms, clubs/nightclubs, karaoke establishments, mahjong-tin kau premises and cruise ships, managers must comply with the relevant restrictions under Cap. 599F. In particular, live performance and dancing activity are prohibited in clubs/nightclubs, and their patrons should be denied entry unless they can present proof of a negative RAT result obtained within 24 hours before entering the relevant premises. Staff members and patrons alike must wear a mask at all times save for the exempted circumstances. Citizens are allowed not to wear masks when they are exercising in outdoor sports premises, indoor sports premises, as well as fitness centres which meet the requirement on air change.
(5) For club-houses and hotels or guesthouses, managers must continue to comply with the relevant restrictions under Cap. 599F, and the catering premises, bars/pubs and scheduled premises therein must comply with all applicable requirements.
(6) For shopping malls, department stores, supermarkets and markets, the manager / person-in-charge must continue to comply with the relevant restrictions under Cap. 599F, including fulfilling the relevant requirements on "LeaveHomeSafe" and the Vaccine Pass under "passive checking".
(7) The restriction on the number of persons allowed in premises such as cinemas, performance venues, museums, event premises and religious premises etc. will remain at 85 per cent of their capacity. Patrons may eat and drink in cinema houses.
(III) Mask-wearing requirement
(8) The mandatory mask-wearing requirement under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Wearing of Mask) Regulation (Cap. 599I) will be extended. A person must wear a mask all the time when the person is boarding or on board a public transport carrier, is entering or present in an MTR paid area, or is entering or present in a specified public place. Citizens are allowed not to wear masks if they are present in outdoor public places in country parks and special areas as defined in section 2 of the Country Parks Ordinance (Cap. 208), or conducting strenuous physical activity (e.g. exercising or jogging) in outdoor public places.
(9) Under Cap. 599I, if a person does not wear a mask in accordance with the requirement, an authorised person may deny that person from boarding a public transport carrier or entering the area concerned, as well as require that person to wear a mask and disembark from the carrier or leave the said area. A person in contravention of the relevant provision commits an offence and the maximum penalty is a fine at level 3 ($10,000). In addition, authorised public officers may issue penalty notices to persons who do not wear a mask in accordance with the requirement and such persons may discharge liability for the offence by paying a fixed penalty at $5,000.
(IV) Group gatherings
(10) Unless exempted, group gatherings of more than four persons in public places will remain prohibited. The requirement is also applicable to group gatherings in catering premises, bars/pubs and scheduled premises regulated under Cap. 599F in which the relevant requirements or restrictions are not complied with.
(11) Subject to relevant requirements, local group tours with no more than 30 persons may continue to be conducted. The relevant requirements include (1) relevant staff has received three doses of vaccine, and conducted a RAT on the same day before the commencement of local group tour activities; and (2) all tour participants have fulfilled the prevailing Vaccine Pass requirements. If all tour participants have conducted RAT on the same day before the commencement of local group tour activities, the relevant restriction on the number of participants will be relaxed to 100 persons.
(12) Any person who participates in a prohibited group gathering; organises a prohibited group gathering; owns, controls or operates the place of such a gathering; and knowingly allows the taking place of such gathering commits an offence under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Gathering) Regulation (Cap. 599G). Offenders are liable to a maximum fine of $25,000 and imprisonment for six months. Persons who participate in a prohibited group gathering may discharge liability for the offence by paying a fixed penalty at $5,000.
A Government spokesman said, "With the upward trend of daily new cases, the Hong Kong community must prudently guard against the risk for an epidemic rebound. We urge citizens again to vigilantly observe anti-epidemic measures, and immediately receive appropriate doses of COVID-19 vaccine thereby making best preparations for a possible epidemic rebound in future."
Ends/Tuesday, June 14, 2022
Issued at HKT 23:07
Issued at HKT 23:07