Hong Kong residents who have received both vaccine jabs will be able to gather in larger groups, opening a window to refill restaurants on the back of a steadily declining daily infection rate.
"Hong Kong has recorded no untraceable cases over the past three days which is a good sign," chief executive Carrie Lam said Monday, putting the city squarely in the global low risk category.
Health authorities have pegged their goal of a 70% inoculation rate to these "vaccination bubbles" which they hope will incentivize people to get the jab.
Lam announced the plan at a Monday afternoon press conference at which the government unveiled a new slogan for its anti-coronavirus campaign.
The updated catchphrase, "a new direction in fighting the pandemic," was met with some derision on social media. "Backwards counts as a direction," one Twitter user pointed out.
Despite the mixed reception, the proposed changes will be welcomed by the city's business-starved entertainment and restaurant sectors.
Venues serving food and beverages will cycle through three stages, outlined by the authorities on Monday, while guests will be required to continue using the government's LeaveSafe app to record their visits.
When all employees at a restaurant receive their first vaccine dose, table capacity will be expanded from four to six guests and opening hours will be pushed back to 12 am.
When all employees have received both their jabs and are fully inoculated, the premises will be allowed to stay open until 2 am with a maximum seating capacity of eight people per table.
The ultimate goal is for all employees and guests to complete the vaccine regime, at which point the number of people per table will grow to 12.
Workers who refuse to get their jabs may be terminated. All restaurant employees will be required to undergo vaccinations or risk being fired, a person with knowledge of the matter told Business Times.
For the time being though, current restrictions will remain in place as authorities take a wait-and-see approach before implementing this roadmap to reopening.
Hong Kong is home to one of the strictest pandemic prevention regimes in the world.
Travelers from abroad are required to quarantine in a hotel room for 21 days and face a battery of COVID tests before entering the city, while air crews must undergo a 14 day quarantine period.
The strict rules are paying dividends. Hong Kong recorded just 13 new cases on Monday, of which 11 were from abroad.