Hong Kong to drop Covid-19 test requirements for bars, entertainment venues

There are growing expectations for the Hong Kong border with mainland China to fully reopen in the near future. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG – People in Hong Kong will from Thursday no longer need to show a negative Covid-19 test to get into bars and restaurants, the health authorities said.

Cinemas and performance venues will also be allowed to operate at full capacity.

“The government is looking deeply into where we can further relax measures so we can go back to normal life,” Ms Libby Lee, the city’s Undersecretary for Health, said at a media briefing on Tuesday.

Hong Kong has for nearly three years largely followed China’s lead in tackling the coronavirus.

China this month began dismantling its stringent “zero-Covid” regime of lockdowns and testing after widespread protests broke out against curbs that had kept the virus at bay but came at a big cost to society and the world’s second-largest economy.

Hong Kong’s relaxation comes a week after it announced that people arriving in the Chinese territory from outside mainland China or from Macau would no longer face Covid-19 movement curbs or be barred from certain venues.

The city government last week also scrapped a mandatory Covid-19 mobile application required for people to check in to most venues such as gyms, beauty salons and schools.

While Hong Kong has effectively dismantled many of its stringent Covid-19 rules in recent months, masks are still compulsory in public places unless doing exercise workouts, and a vaccine pass is required to enter many venues.

The city’s Chief Executive John Lee said on Tuesday that the government was taking a gradual approach to relaxing curbs to minimise public health risks.

He will go on a four-day duty visit to Beijing on Wednesday, where he said he would report on Hong Kong’s political and economic environment as well as the Covid-19 situation.

An anticipated full reopening of Hong Kong’s border with mainland China and quarantine-free travel between both places are expected to be on the agenda.

While bar and restaurant customers have had to show a negative test, entertainment venues such as cinemas, museums and theme parks have been running at 85 per cent capacity.

Banquet facilities, bars and nightclubs will be able to operate at full capacity from Thursday.

The easing comes as Hong Kong battles a wave of infections. The city reported more than 15,000 new daily cases on Monday and 39 deaths.

But health officials said the situation was showing signs of stabilising.

The city expects demand on the public hospital system to increase, but can deploy more staff and beds if necessary. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

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