HONG KONG – Hong Kong authorities relaxed on Wednesday several measures against COVID-19, a day after the start of a mass campaign to test hundreds of thousands of residents of the former British colony.
Around the beginning of July, a third wave of the novel coronavirus infections hit the island, which was responsible for nearly two-thirds of the total 4,822 confirmed cases registered so far.
However, the situation has improved in recent weeks. On Wednesday, the special administrative region was expected to record the lowest number of cases in two months, after strict measures were announced by the local government, which included a ban on gatherings of more than two people.
Following the relaxation of measures, from Friday, gyms, beauty salons and private residential clubs will be permitted to reopen, while restaurants can serve food until 10:00 pm instead of 9:00 pm until now, state media RTHK reported.
Most of the establishments will be subject to restrictions and will not be able to attend to more than four people in enclosed spaces, and wearing of masks will be compulsory.
Bars, karaoke and party venues will remain closed for now, while classes in primary and secondary schools will resume on Sept. 23.
Health Secretary Sophia Chan said the authorities took into account people’s mental and physical health when deciding which premises could reopen.
“So people are tired, fatigued, and so doing some exercise would also bring about physical as well mental health, So we felt that this is something that would have some priority,” Chan said, according to RTHK.
Meanwhile, more than 125,000 people underwent free coronavirus tests on Tuesday as a part of the two-week long mass testing campaign.
Those wishing to get themselves tested can visit any of the 10 dedicated centers in the 18 districts of the city, which aims to carry out more than 700,000 tests in total.
The initiative is backed by the Beijing government, which has sent teams of health professionals to reinforce the capacity to conduct the tests in the city, which has in turn raised fears among the pro-democracy opposition groups.
Several of them have expressed concern over the arrival of health workers from the mainland, considering the lack of clarity over the use of the citizens’ personal data collected, especially at a time when Beijing has tightened its grip over the special administrative region.