Government maintains existing social distancing measures
The epidemic situation in Hong Kong has shown signs of rebound recently. The number of daily new cases hovered around 9 000 to over 11 000, amounting to 71 172 cases in total over the past week (December 1 to 7) and representing a 20.3 per cent increase as compared to the 59 154 cases in the week before (from November 24 to 30). The number of hospitalised patients with COVID-19 has also further risen, though the proportion of those in critical or serious conditions has been largely stable and did not significantly increase with the changes in the epidemic situation.
Having balanced the aforementioned public health risks and the need for social and economic activities, the Government considered that there is no room for relaxing the social distancing measures at this juncture and decided to maintain the existing social distancing measures for the next 14-day cycle.
Given the potential changes in the epidemic situation in the winter months, the Government will continue to closely monitor the epidemic development and review in every 14-day cycle ahead if the social distancing measures can be adjusted as appropriate, with a view to maintaining the operation of the public healthcare system while Hong Kong progresses along its path to normalcy.
Details on the restrictions under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Requirements and Directions) (Business and Premises) Regulation (Cap. 599F) to be in force during the period from December 15 to 28 are set out in Annex. Specific measures include:
(I) Catering business
(1) The maximum number of persons per table for catering premises is 12, and banquet activities with no more than 240 persons each are allowed. All patrons who enter the catering premises for attending banquets or enter the bar/pub zone therein must present proof of a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) result obtained within 24 hours or a negative polymerase chain reaction-based nucleic acid (PCR) test result obtained within 48 hours. Otherwise, they should be denied entry.
(2) The maximum number of persons per table for bars/pubs is six, and the total number of patrons is capped at 75 per cent of their capacity. All patrons of bars/pubs must present proof of a negative RAT result obtained within 24 hours or a negative PCR test result obtained within 48 hours before entering the relevant premises. Otherwise, they should be denied entry.
(3) Mask-wearing requirement during photo-taking on stage at events held at catering premises and bars/pubs is exempted. Furthermore, live performance and dancing activity are allowed in catering premises and bars/pubs, on the premise that relevant performers must conduct regular tests (i.e. two PCR tests in every seven days, and an RAT on the same day before entering the premises for performance or rehearsal), wear masks as far as practicable, and keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres from the audience or patrons (or with effective partition). Performers and the audience or patrons should not mingle on the premises. Participants of dancing activity must wear masks while they are dancing.
(4) Other requirements and restrictions on catering premises and bars/pubs 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 in general, 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
(5) For swimming pools, sports premises, fitness centres, beauty parlours and massage establishments, bathhouses, party rooms, clubs/nightclubs, karaoke establishments and cruise ships (namely "cruise-to-nowhere" itineraries), managers must comply with the relevant restrictions under Cap. 599F. In particular, the number of persons per group is capped at 12 in general. All staff members involved in the operation of scheduled premises must conduct an RAT once every three days before entering the premises. The maximum number of persons per table for clubs/nightclubs is six, and their patrons should continue to be denied entry unless they can present proof of a negative RAT result obtained within 24 hours or a negative PCR test result obtained within 48 hours before entering the relevant premises.
(6) Staff members and patrons alike must wear a mask at all times save for exempted circumstances. Mask-wearing requirement during photo-taking on stage at events held at scheduled premises is exempted. Users are allowed not to wear masks when they are exercising in sports premises as well as fitness centres which meet the requirement on air change. Patrons/spectators/users may eat and drink in performance venues, cinema houses, outdoor areas of theme parks, spectator stands of outdoor sports premises, as well as outdoor areas of racecourses.
(7) Live performance and dancing activity are allowed in clubs/nightclubs, cinemas, museums, as well as meeting rooms/function rooms in club-houses and hotels/guesthouses, on the premise that relevant performers must conduct regular tests (i.e. two PCR tests in every seven days, and an RAT on the same day before entering the premises for performance or rehearsal), wear masks as far as practicable, and keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres from the audience or patrons (or with effective partition). Performers and the audience or patrons should not mingle on the premises. Participants of a dancing activity must wear masks while they are dancing.
(8) For club-houses and hotels/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.
(9) For amusement game centres, places of amusement (excluding public skating rinks), places of public entertainment (excluding cinemas and performance venues where patrons are allowed to eat and drink), club-houses, mahjong-tin kau premises, event premises, barber shops/hair salons, religious premises, shopping malls, department stores, supermarkets and markets, the manager/person-in-charge must comply with the relevant restrictions under Cap. 599F, including fulfilling the relevant Vaccine Pass requirements under the mode of "passive checking".
(10) The restriction on the number of persons allowed in premises such as cinemas, performance venues, museums, event premises and religious premises remains at 85 per cent of their capacity.
(III) Mask-wearing requirement
(11) 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. Persons 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 are conducting strenuous physical activity (e.g. exercising or jogging) in outdoor public places.
(12) 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). Authorised public officers may issue fixed 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
(13) Unless exempted, group gatherings of more than 12 persons in public places is 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.
(14) Subject to relevant requirements, local group tours with no more than 30 persons may continue to be conducted. The relevant requirements include (i) relevant staff have received three doses of vaccine, and conducted an RAT on the same day before the commencement of local group tour activities, and (ii) all tour participants have fulfilled the prevailing Vaccine Pass requirements. If all tour participants have conducted an RAT on the same day of the tour before the commencement of local group tour activities, the relevant restriction on the number of participants will be relaxed to 100 persons.
(15) 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 a 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 be issued fixed penalty notices and they may discharge liability for the offence by paying a fixed penalty at $5,000.
A Government spokesman said, "The Government will continue to uphold the principles of science-based and targeted anti-epidemic measures, proper management of risks and citizen-focused facilitation, and suitably adjust social distancing measures in response to the changes in the epidemic situation. As seasonal influenza peaks in winter, we urge citizens to receive COVID-19 and seasonal influenza vaccines as early as practicable, fighting against the epidemic in joint efforts and safeguarding public health."
Ends/Thursday, December 8, 2022
Issued at HKT 21:05
Issued at HKT 21:05