Hong Kong bars, theme parks to reopen as mass testing wraps up – Kyodo News Plus

The Hong Kong government announced Tuesday a relaxation of social distancing measures, saying after two weeks of mass testing that the coronavirus pandemic appears to be under control.

Starting Friday, bars, pubs, nightclubs, party rooms and karaoke lounges, as well as restaurants that have already resumed business, will be allowed to open until midnight with patrons limited to up to four people per table.

Inside Ta Kok Tsui Sports Centre, one of Hong Kong’s makeshift centres for the mass testing scheme for COVID19, Tai Kok Tsui, Hong Kong, China, on September 14, 2020. (NurPhoto/Getty/Kyodo)

The territory’s two theme parks, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, can also reopen their gates closed since the third wave hit in July.

“There is zero local confirmed coronavirus case today, the first (time) since early July,” government leader Carrie Lam told a press conference. “I hope…it means the third wave of pandemic is under control. But we must not be complacent. We have to stringently keep up the anti-pandemic measures.”

The face mask order in public spaces and most private settings will remain in force, as well as the public gathering limit of four people.

“It is not a total relaxation. It is with conditions,” Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan said. “We all know that we are under this new normal situation, because (until) we have vaccines, the virus is going to be with us. So during this stage of relaxation, we also emphasized that people be vigilant about why they are going out.”

All four new cases reported Tuesday are imported ones, bringing the total tally to 4,975, with 102 deaths.

The two-week mass coronavirus testing scheme, marred by worries over China’s collection of personal data, tested about 1.78 million people and found 32 asymptomatic patients since it began on Sept. 1.

Secretary for Civil Service Patrick Nip said the program was a success in terms of identifying asymptomatic patients, providing testing for people who demanded it and providing useful references before the next wave of pandemic hits

A third round of financial relief worth HK$24 billion (US$1.8 billion) will be launched to help businesses affected by the pandemic.

With extra spending and loss of income from subdued economic activities due to the pandemic, Hong Kong will likely see a deficit of about HK$300 billion for the 2020 fiscal year with fiscal reserves down to HK$800 billion, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said.