The Hong Kong government has recently announced a relaxation of the strict pandemic control measures after the fifth wave is starting to show signs of easing. These measures will take effect on April 21, given that the number of COVID-19 cases does not rebound.
The relaxation will be carried out in three phases over three months, addressing restrictions that were in place for restaurants, gyms, beauty salons, and other businesses. Moreover, other measures, including lifting flight bans, resuming face-to-face classes in schools and public services are also coming their way.
So, what are the new policies and arrangements proposed, and when will we see changes?
Here are the answers to your possible confusion. This is a compilation of information mainly from the government press conference on March 21.
1. Relaxing Social-distancing Measures
Phase 1: Starting on April 21
- Scheduled premises such as gyms and beauty salons
- Facilities under the Leisure & Cultural Services Department, such as sports premises, museums, performance venues, and libraries
Catering businesses (restaurants):
- Resume dine-in services from 6pm to 10pm
- Maximum number of people per table will be relaxed to four
- Maximum number of people in group gatherings in public places increases to four
- Prohibition on gatherings at private premises involving more than two households will be canceled
- Bars and pubs, party rooms, and karaoke establishments
- Public beaches
Catering businesses (restaurants):
- Relaxation on dine-in service hours to midnight
- Maximum number of people per table increases to eight
- Masks are no longer mandatory when people are in country parks or exercising in outdoor public places, at sports premises and fitness centres.
All restrictions on the number of customers and dine-in hours in restaurants, the number of people in group gatherings at all catering and scheduled premises will be lifted.
2. Lifting Flight Bans
The flight ban on nine countries including the UK, Canada, India, Pakistan, Nepal, France, Australia, Philippines, and the US will be lifted starting from April 1. Countries and regions will no longer be designated into groups A, B, or C, and the new quarantine requirement will apply to all overseas arrivals. In other words, Hong Kong residents who are fully vaccinated can board a flight for Hong Kong, regardless of where they are coming from.
The 14-day hotel quarantine period for the full-vaccinated arrivals would also be reduced to seven days under the following conditions:
- Result of a rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based nucleic acid test on day 5 is negative.
- Results of rapid antigen tests (RATs) on both days 6 and 7 are negative.
These arrivals then would undergo a seven-day self-monitoring, but they also have to receive a PCR test on day 12 at a community testing centre.
3. Resuming Face-to-face Classes in Schools
Face-to-face classes in all primary schools, international schools, and kindergartens will resume after the Easter holiday.
However, in-person classes will still be on a half-day basis during the initial stage, according to Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung at the press conference on March 23. Schools can only return to full-day face-to-face classes only if all staff members and 90 per cent of students have at least received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Primary schools and international schools will be the first back to face-to-face teaching. Their face-to-face classes will resume as early as April 19 after the Easter holiday.
As for secondary schools, students will need to wait until the 2022 Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) core subjects (Chinese, English, Mathematics, and Liberal Studies) are completed, to get back to the classroom.
4. Resuming Public Service of Government Departments
Government departments will gradually resume operations starting from April 1. The goal is to resume normal public services from April 21, according to the government statement. All government employees working at government venues are required to have received the second dose of the vaccine by April 1.
Above are the tentative relaxation arrangements for next month, but policies might change accordingly to the pandemic situation in society. To obtain the latest information about the pandemic control measures, you are advised to check the government’s announcement on their website.