As the citywide caseload for Covid infections stabilised to a three-month low of 283 cases today (May 3), Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that from 19 May 2022, existing social distancing measures will be relaxed further and bars allowed to reopen. Restaurants will also be allowed to seat eight people per table, up from four previously, while the latest operating hours will be extended to midnight, from 10pm.
The shift signals the beginning of stage two of a three-stage roadmap to relax social restrictions in light of declining infections following the passing of the pandemic's fifth wave in Hong Kong. In this stage, party rooms, karaoke parlours, beaches and swimming pools will also be allowed to reopen. Mask exemptions will also be removed for outdoor exercise.
In the final stage will see the retraction of most social distancing measures, operating hours are expected to be extended further, although customers will still be required to use the vaccine pass and the LeaveHomeSafe app.
Recent moves to relax Hong Kong's strict social distancing regime have been rolled out in concert with other measures like opening to non-resident travellers, and reducing the ban on flights found to carry at least three Covid-positive passengers from seven days down to five.
Hong Kong has endured its most severe wave of Covid-19 yet, with the Omicron variant wreaking havoc on the city's underprepared medical system, leading to scenes of overflowing morgues reminiscent of the pandemic's early days in epicentres in New York City and Italy. The city has recorded 1.2 million cases and 9,318 deaths as of this May 2, up from 13,000 cases and 213 deaths prior to the fifth wave, leading to the world's highest death rate since the detection of Omicron. The F&B industry has been one of the hardest-hit, with an estimated 3,000 venus closed temporarily, and 400 venues closed for good.