Coronavirus: Hong Kong will allow public gatherings of up to 50 people

Party size limits at bars, pubs and karaoke rooms will also be raised.
Party size limits at bars, pubs and karaoke rooms will also be raised.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong will further relax virus-related social distancing measures by allowing public gatherings of up to 50 people, as the city continues to be a rare global success story in containing Covid-19.

Top health official Sophia Chan said the easing would go into effect on Friday (June 19), dramatically raising the size of gatherings from just eight people.

Ms Chan also said party size limits at bars, pubs and karaoke rooms would be raised. Details will be announced in a press release in due course, she added.

The city's leader Mrs Carrie Lam said at a weekly briefing earlier on Tuesday: "We have to strike a balance between at least three main factors - one is of course the public health concerns, secondly is the impact on the economy, thirdly is the tolerance of the people.

"If you continue to keep these measures in place, people become intolerant. So they will not comply with these regulations."

The hub of around 7.5 million people - roughly the same as New York City's population - has been successful in stopping the coronavirus, with only 1,100 cases and just four related deaths. Most residents are still wearing surgical masks, even as life slowly returns to normal.

But it has also been rocked by renewed unrest in recent weeks amid China's passage of new national security legislation for the city that has raised concerns about basic freedoms and its future autonomy from the mainland.

Protesters say Hong Kong's government is using the social distancing measures to prevent them from gathering. Hundreds of people defied the restrictions and rallied in Central last week to mark the first anniversary of the mass pro-democracy marches that engulfed the city last year.

Thousands more came together for an annual June 4 vigil commemorating Beijing's 1989 crackdown on activists in Tiananmen Square.

May visitor arrivals to the city fell 99.9 per cent on-year to 8,139, the Hong Kong Tourism Board said on Monday.