Hong Kong will partially ease social-distancing measures from Friday, despite confirming 21 new coronavirus infections on Thursday.
Medical experts have cautioned that preventive measures should remain in place for now, but health authorities are pushing ahead with the move, saying under the pandemic’s “new normal”, infections are bound to arise.
According to the South China Morning Post, of the latest cases, 18 were locally transmitted, with four untraced. Two elderly people, a 70-year-old man and an 81-year-old woman, succumbed to the disease, taking the number of related fatalities to 81.
Undersecretary for Food and Health Dr Chui Tak-yi said the number of daily infections had been slowly dropping and so the government would ease some preventive measures.
A spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau earlier said: “Under the new normal, the public must accept that there will be sporadic cases and clusters in the community from time to time. We cannot and should not wait until there are no confirmed cases in the community for an extended period of time before we consider relaxing social-distancing measures.”
“From Friday, restaurants will be allowed to offer dine-in service until 9 pm, three hours longer than the existing cut-off time. Cinemas can reopen but must operate at half capacity, with no more than two adjoining seats occupied by patrons. No eating or drinking will be allowed,” said the Post.
Beauty parlours can only serve customers with an appointment and allow no more than two people in each partitioned area. Staff must wear protective gear at all times.
Hong Kong registered nine COVID-19 infections on Monday, the lowest since 3 July. But the daily count reached 19 on Tuesday and climbed to 24 on Wednesday.
The city’s coronavirus tally now stands at 4,755.
Meanwhile, organisers of the Hong Kong Marathon have postponed next year’s event, originally scheduled for 24 January, citing the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some 74,000 people had signed up for that event.
PHOTO © CGTN