HKSAR to resume gov't services in phases amid stabilized epidemic situation

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng-Yuet-ngor meets the press before an Executive Council meeting on April 21, 2020. (Photo: China Daily)

HONG KONG - China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) will resume government services in phases, with the first phase starting from Monday next week, as the COVID-19 epidemic situation in Hong Kong has stabilized, HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced here on Tuesday.

Hong Kong's daily increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases remains single-digit over the past two weeks, with no new case reported in four days.

Lam announced the decision on Tuesday morning before attending the HKSAR Executive Council meeting, introducing that the majority of civil servants and staff working for the government, excluding those working at schools or some venues run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, will begin working in their offices again on Monday next week, and public services including counter services will resume normal opening hours.

Lam added that in the first phase, some public facilities including outdoor playgrounds, libraries and museums will reopen to the public, and while HKSAR government meetings are allowed to take place, large-scale events such as ceremonies still cannot be held.

A raft of epidemic-prevention measures are due to expire on May 7, including 14-day quarantine for all arrivals from the Chinese mainland, restrictions on venues including restaurants and bars, and limited public gathering of no more than four people. Lam said the government will announce soon as of whether to extend these measures based on suggestion from experts and various sectors.

Given the volatility of the epidemic, Lam said the HKSAR government as well as the public need to remain alert.

A spokesperson of the HKSAR government said in a statement issued after Lam's remarks that the government will adopt measures at public facilities which will reopen under the first phase to avoid public gatherings of more than four people, and members of the public are encouraged to continue to use alternative means to receive services they need.

The HKSAR government will also implement infection control measures in government buildings and venues, such as body temperature checks, and government departments will continue social distancing and precautionary measures among staff, including flexible working hours, the spokesperson said.

The government will continue to closely monitor the situation and determine when to embark on a full resumption of normal business under the second phase, said the spokesman.