14th September 2020 – (Hong Kong) As the epidemic situation continues to ease, many people have started to go out for dinners and shopping during the last weekend. However, as the clubs and bars have remained closed, social animals could only party in private in hotel rooms or private residence to evade the gathering ban. During yesterday afternoon, 3 yachts were spotted tied together in Repulse Bay where around 40-50 people partied without wearing any masks. A DJ was purportedly hired to play dance music and everyone was seen partying as if the epidemic were over.
There were a total of two COVID-19 cases originated from a 40-people boat party held on 12th July but the government has not tightened enforcement on yacht parties since then. The Hong Kong government and enforcement officers have been very lenient when it comes to implementing the gathering ban on private yachts. Even though cases have dropped in recent days, private yacht owners and organisers should refrain from having large-scale boat parties during this sensitive period.
Videos and photos of an electronic music festival at the Wuhan Maya Beach Water Park on 11th July raised eyebrows overseas, but reflected life returning to normal in the city where the virus causing COVID-19 was first detected, the official English-language China Daily newspaper said in a front-page story.
Sources have revealed that as long as the vessel does not anchor, it does not fall under the ambit as private yacht or pleasure boat can only be used as a mode of transport during this period. The moment the pleasure boat anchors in e.g. Repulse Bay or South Bay, the Prevention & Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation will apply. The total numbers of passengers must not be more than 4 excluding crew members.
The government announced last week further relaxation of anti-epidemic measures which took effect from 11th September to 17th September this week. Seating per table has been increased to 4 people at catering premises. All indoor and outdoor sports venues were allowed to be reopened. Game arcade centres and places of amusements, public entertainment venues, mahjong and Tinkau parlours have since re-opened. The COVID-19 cases have dropped to single digits in recent days before rebounding to double digits in the last few days. There were 14 cases reported today. Nevertheless, citizens in Hong Kong have started to feel lethargic over the epidemic and many restaurants and shopping malls were packed with people during last weekend.
Meanwhile, the Central and Western District Police and special police officers, distributed leaflets and mask covers to foreign domestic helpers yesterday throughout the Central and Western District to remind foreign domestic helpers to observe the anti-epidemic regulations during gathering, to wear masks all the time and to pay attention to proper social distance.
In the past two days, some local confirmed cases with symptoms are scattered in different regions, and the overall number of cases has increased slightly. There is concern that the epidemic may be at risk of rebound. Dr. Leung Chi Chiu from Hong Kong Medical Association said on a radio program this morning that factors such as the return of civil servants to work, students’ return to school, and the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday all have the opportunity to cause the epidemic to rebound rapidly, referring to the next two weeks as a critical moment.
The fourth stage scheduled on 18th September will include reopening of bars, karaoke and Party Rooms if the situation stabilises. During the third stage, listed premises such as public bathhouses, sauna, party rooms, swimming pools, bars and night clubs are still required to be closed. Once the bars and night clubs are open, it is believed that many party animals will throng LKF and other nightspots to celebrate as if the epidemic were over.
The Hong Kong government should step up its measures to stop party revellers from exploiting the legal loophole to use yachts as a venue for large-scale gatherings. It is high time for marine police to patrol popular areas such as Repulse Bay, Deep Water Bay and Sai Kung during weekends to stop massive gatherings on yachts.