- Bars and restaurants face new restrictions, and cinemas prepare to shut for two weeks. Karaoke lounges escape closure, but face same rules as eateries
- Details come as city records 42 new infections, pushing the tally up to 560
Hongkongers visiting their ancestors' graves during the upcoming Ching Ming Festival will have to abide by a four-person limit on public gatherings, while karaoke lounges will escape a two-week closure, the health minister said on Saturday.
Police will send home or arrest anyone violating the four-person cap if they do not heed officers' orders to split up.
By Saturday afternoon, the city's tally of Covid-19 infections stood at 560, after a daily count of 42 new confirmed cases. Many recent infections involve overseas returnees, while a cluster of cases involving bars on Hong Kong Island have also become a cause for concern, putting more pressure on residents to practise social distancing.
Among the cases revealed on Saturday, 37 had travel history, 22 of them returning students.
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee revealed more details on the latest anti-epidemic measures just hours before cinemas, gyms and other venues were set to temporarily shut, with restaurants halving their capacities.
"Grave sweeping is regulated under the rule on having (at most) four people (in public spaces," Chan said just a week ahead of the important festival, on April 4 this year, during which Hongkongers take flowers and food to visit the graves of their ancestors. Some people even worship their ancestors in the days before the festival.
From Sunday, gatherings of more than four people in public spaces will be banned for 14 days, though there will be no limit on how many people can congregate in private settings or at work. Neither will the rule apply to public transport, weddings, funerals, courts or government buildings and meetings.
People who flout the public gathering law could be fined up to HK$25,000 and given a six-month jail sentence, according to the latest amendments to the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance.
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From 6pm, restaurants would need to limit the number of diners at each table to four, with each table 1.5 metres apart, while bars would have to operate at half their capacity. Venues would be obliged to check customers' temperatures and provide hand sanitiser.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department was tasked with performing spot checks, and violators in the catering industry would face a maximum penalty of a HK$50,000 (US$6,450) fine and six months in jail.
Six types of establishment that attract large gatherings " cinemas, fitness centres, saunas, party venues, gaming centres and other leisure venues such as pool halls " would also be shut for two weeks.
But karaoke lounges were exempted. Chan argued the lounges held restaurants licences, and so the requirements for eateries also would apply to them.
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