With the sharp increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the country, on March 27 the Hong Kong government announced that it will roll out new social distancing measures. These include a ban on public gatherings of four or more people – both indoors and outdoors effective Sunday (March 29), with offenders risking at least HKD 25,000 fine and six months in prison.
Moreover, all karaoke lounges were ordered to be closed for 14 days starting April 1, 6 pm, after three more people with links to a rash of infections traced to a karaoke in Tsim Sha Tsui tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number in the cluster to eight.
Gatherings of Over 4 People Banned in Hong Kong, Entertainment Venues Closed
Based on the government’s decision, exemptions will include those gathering in private such as people involved in government, courts, district council or legislative work. It will also not apply to people taking public transport or to those gathered at workplaces, as shared in a report by the Hong Kong Free Press.
During a press conference last March 27, Chief Executive Carrie Lam also announced that games centers, party rooms, bathhouses, fitness centers, places of amusement – such as skating rings and bowling alleys – will be forced to close from 6 pm starting Saturday, March 28.
Public entertainment venues such as cinemas must also close their doors.
Although plans to suspend alcohol licenses have been scrapped, restaurants will be made to enact social distancing measures, ensuring their venues are only filled to 50 percent capacity. Moreover, eateries will have segregate seats, ensuring no more than four people are sat at each table at a time.
Meanwhile, staff must wear masks and premises must provide hand rub.
In accordance with the decision, barbecue sites and campsites in country parks will also be closed.
All of the said measures enacted on Friday, March 27, will last for at least two weeks.
Meanwhile, on the closure of karaoke bars, mahjong parlors and clubhouses, the Centre for Health Protection noted that two of the new cases were with the five infected people who visited REDMR karaoke on Carnarvon Road on Mar. 24. The third is a relative of one of the women in the group.
Although the said business establishments were initially not included in the list of public gathering places ordered to be closed on Saturday, Mar 28, as part of social distancing measures to stop a recent surge in the number of new infections, the decision came after a special meeting between Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her advisory body, and the Executive Council was held Wednesday afternoon, April 1.
Earlier, three other establishments – clubhouses, beauty centers, and massage parlors – were reportedly included in the ban, but they were later told they can continue operating as long as their customers wear face masks and their temperatures are taken before being allowed in.
Meanwhile, the government said it will launch a second fund to benefit the sectors affected by the new measures. Lam urged companies not to fire staff, as such action might render those firms ineligible for future government subsidies.