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Hong Kong to reopen venues, relax distancing rules as cases drop

Hong Kong will allow restaurant dining-in services until 10 p.m. and relax other social-distancing rules after the Chinese New Year, as the city tries to move past a winter wave that's throttled the economy.

The city will permit four people per dining table, doubling from the current limit of two, starting from Feb. 18, if the virus remains contained over the Lunar New Year, officials said at a briefing on Wednesday. Venues ranging from indoor and outdoor sports centers, beauty parlors, theme parks and cinemas will also be allowed to reopen.

"We are cautiously positive on the epidemic," Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan said. "If Hong Kong residents continue to observe social-distancing rules, following this trend, we hope we can resume normal life after Lunar New Year."

Hong Kong will require staff virus tests if businesses want to reopen. The government is also discussing relaxing the public gathering rule to four people as well, from the current limit of two, according to Chan.

The Asian financial hub has seen cases fading to a few dozens in the past week, after Hong Kong deployed compulsory testing and neighborhood lockdowns in an attempt to achieve zero cases in the community. The closure of schools and some businesses has been in place for over two months, and has been extended into the New Year holidays.

A panel of experts on Wednesday postponed a decision on recommending a second vaccine for the city. It announced they will seek more data from Sinovac Biotech Ltd. on its vaccine before it meets again in two weeks to review its emergency use application.

The vaccine developed by BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc. already received a greenlight last month. The city is expected to start its inoculation program as early as the end of February.

Published : February 11, 2021

By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Jinshan Hong