Social distancing measures adjusted

The Government today announced its decision to adjust social distancing measures to allow religious activities to be held and swimming pools to be opened under the relevant requirements and restrictions.   The Food & Health Bureau said thanks to the efforts of the whole community in Hong Kong, the number of local COVID-19 cases has declined to less than five per day on average over the past week.   The bureau explained that to continue containing the spread of the disease, the Government must maintain the majority of the social distancing measures and it encourages more members of the public to get vaccinated as early as possible.   As the Easter holiday is approaching, the Government will adjust the relevant restrictions for some activities with lower risks appropriately, it added.   Under the latest measures, swimming pools can be opened when the relevant requirements and restrictions are fulfilled, which include that people must wear a mask at all times except when they are swimming, having a shower or doing warm-up exercises with adequate distance or effective partition between people.   The number of people to be allowed must not exceed 30% of the swimming pool’s designed capacity. Each training group or class must consist of no more than four people including the coach, and there must be at least 1.5 m between each group.   Regular environmental cleaning and disinfection must be carried out daily, the ratio of free residual chlorine content of the pool water must meet the standard, and staff of the premises must undergo a COVID-19 test once every 14 days.   The measures also state that leisure pools, pools for children and toddlers and Jacuzzis must remain closed.   For cinemas and places of public entertainment with live performance, as well as spectator stands of sports premises and swimming pools, seats to be occupied must not exceed 75% of the premises’ seating capacity, while the total number of visitors in a theme park must not exceed 75% of its overall capacity.   Apart from these adjustments, most of the existing requirements and restrictions applicable to the scheduled premises under the Prevention & Control of Disease (Requirements & Directions) (Business & Premises) Regulation Cap 599F will be maintained.   Some scheduled premises can be opened when the relevant requirements and restrictions are fulfilled, including arranging for all staff involved in the operation to undergo a virus test every 14 days.   The bureau said the Government is exploring that staff of scheduled premises who have completed vaccination, ie 14 days after receiving the second vaccine dose, would be deemed as having fulfilled the regular testing requirement.   Bathhouses, party rooms, nightclubs, karaoke establishments and mahjong-tin kau premises will remain closed.   The new measures will take effect on April 1 until April 14.   Meanwhile, the scope of existing exempted group gatherings under the Prevention & Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation Cap 599G will be adjusted to cover religious gatherings during which no food or drink is served with immediate effect.   Unless exempted, the prohibition on group gatherings of more than four people in public places will continue.   The bureau urged the public to remain patient and keep social distances during the Easter holiday, so that the city could completely put off the fourth wave of the epidemic and achieve zero case early.   It stressed that when the ratio of the vaccinated population reaches a higher level, it may be possible to have herd protection or immunity in the community, allowing the public to resume their normal life.

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