Restriction on catering business extended for 14 days, requirement for 50% maximum seating capacity removed (Updated: 12.50pm)

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21st April 2020 – (Hong Kong) Sophia Chan, Secretary for Food and Health expressed in a media interview today that  the directions under Prevention and Control of Disease (Requirement and Directions) (Business and Premises) Regulation (the Regulation) (Cap. 599F) and Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation (Cap. 599G) (“the Regulations”) will be extended for another 2 weeks after its expiry on 23rd April.

However, the requirement that the number of customers at any premises on which food or drink is sold or supplied for consumption on the premises (catering premises) at any one time must not exceed 50% of the normal seating capacity of the premises has been removed.

The new relevant requirements for catering business include:

(a)  tables available for use or being used by customers within any catering premises must be arranged in a way to ensure there is a distance of at least 1.5 metres or some form of partition which could serve as effective buffer between one table and another table at the premises;
(b) no more than 4 persons may be seated together at one table within any catering premises;
(c) a person must wear a mask at any time within any catering premises, except when the person is consuming food or drink on the premises;
(d) body temperature screening on a person must be conducted before the person is allowed to enter the catering premises; and
(e) hand sanitisers must be provided at any catering premises for any person at the premises.

All premises as listed will also remain closed:

(a) Amusement game centres;
(b) Bathhouses;
(c) Fitness centres;
(d) Places of amusement;
(e) Places of public entertainment; and
(f) Premises that are maintained or intended to be maintained for hire for holding social gatherings (commonly known as “party room”).

(g) Beauty and massage parlours.

A spokesperson for the Food and Health Bureau reminded the persons responsible for carrying on the catering business and the managers of scheduled premises that contravening the above requirements would be a criminal offence. Offenders are subject to a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and imprisonment for six months.

Chan explained that the maximum capacity of restaurant seats is no longer limited by half is based on the public’s compliance with various bans and measures, as well as the continuous inspections by law enforcement agencies. She believes that the measures should be tightened or relaxed at different times, but emphasises that measures such as the distance of 1.5 meters between tables are still very important, so they need to be maintained. The authorities stated that they will continue to monitor the effectiveness, and if the situation is not satisfactory, they will tighten the measures again.

Chan said that as of 02:00 on 20th April, various law enforcement departments had conducted patrols to restaurants and other places more than 55,000 times, and issued more than 25,000 verbal warnings. Among them, 35 restaurants or tables that violated regulations or failed to comply with business instructions. The persons in charge of the listed premises were prosecuted. Regarding bars and other premises, each law enforcement department inspected more than 6,100 times and issued 49 warnings. One of the bar managers who violated the regulations was sentenced to one week in prison by the court. As for the prohibition of gathering of more than 4 people, various law enforcement agencies have inspected more than 40,000 times and issued 6,294 warnings. A total of 131 fixed penalty tickets were issued to those who participated in the gatherings and three groups were prosecuted.

80% of the diagnosed cases in Hong Kong were imported cases. The Hong Kong Government is currently strategising to block the virus from being imported from overseas. From tomorrow (22nd), all persons arriving at the airport with no COVID-19 symptoms will need to be tested at the AsiaWorld Expo and wait for results. Passengers who need to wait overnight will go to Regal Oriental Hotel to stay. In addition, people entering the airport will be given an additional sample bottle. Those arriving in Hong Kong will need to collect samples on the 12th day of the quarantine period in addition to the testing at the AsiaWorld Expo. If the test result is positive, the Department of Health will follow up. Chan also hopes that the public would cooperate with the government’s various measures.

Meanwhile, SCMP made a mistake by reporting that the capacity must be capped at 50% as below:

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