Government maintains existing social distancing measures till 14th December, epidemic situation in HK has become volatile

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24th November 2022 – (Hong Kong)  Having assessed the latest epidemic trend, the Government announced today that the existing social distancing measures which are set to expire on 30th November will be maintained until 14th December.

The epidemic situation in Hong Kong has become volatile recently. The number of daily new cases hovered around some 7,000 to over 8,000, amounting to 54,266 cases in total for the past week (17th to 23rd November) and representing a 28.5 per cent increase as compared to that in the week before (42,215 cases from 10th to 16th November). The number of hospitalised patients with COVID-19 also grew from 2,054 on 10th November to 2,576 on 23rd November, signifying a 25.4 per cent jump. Furthermore, the viral load detected from sewage surveillance in various districts has showed an upward trend which warrants attention.

 Seasonal influenza usually peaks in winter. Recent overseas experience also shows that the co-circulation of influenza and COVID-19 could result in a significant increase in hospitalisation, imposing further burden on the healthcare system. To effectively contain the virus transmission risk in the local community while balancing the need for social and economic activities, the Government decided to maintain the existing social distancing measures for the next 14-day cycle.

The Government will continue to closely monitor the epidemic development, particularly on any possible change in the local epidemic situation in winter, and review in every 14-day cycle ahead if the social distancing measures should be adjusted as appropriate with a view to protecting public health.

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, “With winter approaching, there could be fluctuations in the epidemic situation. The Government will closely monitor the epidemic trend, 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.”

 “Seasonal influenza has recently begun to spread in various overseas places, causing a continuous rise in the hospitalisation rate and posing threats to public health therein. We solemnly urge citizens to receive COVID-19 and seasonal influenza vaccines as early as practicable to protect the health of themselves and their family members, and contribute to the joint efforts in maintaining the local healthcare system.”

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