Hong Kong will loosen some COVID-19 control measures from leisure facility closures to travel restrictions as new infections have continued to drop and an increasing number of residents have received the vaccine.
As the Easter holiday is coming, the government will allow some low-risk activities to resume starting Thursday, Sophia Chan, secretary for food and health of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, said Monday at a press conference.
Chan said swimming pools and beaches will be reopened to the public and the capacity cap for theaters and theme parks will be raised from 50 percent to 75 percent.
But high-risk venues including bars and night clubs will remain closed. Most social distancing measures, including group gathering limits, will be extended for another two weeks till mid-April.
The public health authorities will advise the Executive Council to allow religious activities to be held on the condition of a 30-percent capacity cap.
The travel ban for Hong Kong residents from Britain will be lifted and the government will arrange flights to take them home in late April, Chan said, adding that those people are required to undergo a three-week quarantine upon their arrival and take three compulsory virus tests.
Restrictions for travellers from other places will also be relaxed. Those from the low-risk places, firstly Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, will have their quarantine time reduced from 21 days to two weeks plus seven days of self-monitoring, and be required to take a compulsory virus test on the 19th day after their arrivals. As to visitors from places considered as medium risk, they can also have the same quarantine plus self-monitoring arrangement given having been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The loosening of restrictions comes amid an abating epidemic. Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection reported only one local infection on Monday, in addition to seven imported cases.
Meanwhile, the inoculation campaign is going on. Some 462,400 vaccine doses have been administered in Hong Kong under a government program starting February 26, with 18,500 people fully vaccinated.
Despite the relaxation of control measures, Chan said residents should continue to follow existing social distancing rules and warned that the epidemic could rebound if the public members drop their guards off during the upcoming holiday.