Hong Kong residents looking to visit beaches, bars, restaurants and nightclubs can expect fewer restrictions from Friday, Secretary for Health Sophia Chan said Tuesday as the city experienced no new local cases for a third consecutive day.
Starting Oct. 30, groups of up to six instead of four will be permitted to gather together at restaurants, bars and nightclubs - where live performances will also be allowed for the first time in months.
"The virus will coexist with us for a long time and the occurrence of sporadic cases and group infections is inevitable," a Department of Health representative said Tuesday.
"The infection control measures in the premises are designed to allow the public to maintain a certain degree of social and economic activity under the new normal," he added.
Public beaches in Hong Kong, which have been closed since mid-July, will also be reopened as part of this return to relative normalcy. The exact timeline for this will be announced later this week by the Department for Leisure, Chan said.
Catering and entertainment venue opening hours will be extended by two hours until 2 a.m., with establishment owners forbidden from selling food and beverages between then and 5 a.m. in a move deterring people from eating out.
While six people will be allowed to eat together in restaurants from Friday, public gatherings are still limited to groups of four. When asked, the Health Secretary said "this is to cater for public needs as well as the economic and employment situation" and urged people not to gather.
The loosening of social distancing restrictions will come into effect the day before Halloween, an occasion celebrated with massive gatherings in nightlife hot spot Lan Kwai Fong made up of clubs predominantly owned by the LKF Group whose founder Allan Zeman has advocated bar reopenings.
All the new cases in Hong Kong on Tuesday were imported, including four from India and one from France. These countries are both on the city's high risk list that requires incoming travelers from these destinations to take a mandatory test.