Hong Kong authorities announce bars, swimming pools, convention centers, and theme parks will be permitted to open from Friday, September 18, as they further ease some restrictions following a mass coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing program. Reports indicate that a 14-day mainland China-led mass testing program screened approximately 1.8 million people with only 42 infections found, including five cases through contact tracing. New daily cases have dropped to low single or double digits from triple digits in July and no new local cases were reported on Tuesday, September 15.
Authorities recently reopened indoor recreation and entertainment facilities, including gyms, sports centers, massage parlors, and game centers, and increased the number of people allowed to gather in public to up to four. Venues must ensure social distancing measures and hygiene measures are observed. Restaurants are permitted to seat groups of four people at a time. From September 18, restaurants and catering businesses, will be permitted to open until midnight for an initial seven days at a 50 percent capacity. Similarly, bars and pubs will be permitted to reopen until midnight and at a 50 percent capacity, with no more than two people sitting together. Swimming pools will also be required to operate at half capacity. Visits to public beaches remain banned. Face masks remain mandatory for all to wear in all public outdoor areas, on public transport, and in most indoor public areas.
Some business facilities have reopened following enhanced social distancing and hygiene practices, though it remains encouraged for employees in the public and private sector to work from home. Schools remain closed, however, in-person classes are scheduled to resume from September 23.
Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) has reopened with some transit flights also permitted. Transit flights from mainland China are permitted, if grouped in a single booking and the connection time is less than 24 hours, however transit flights to mainland China remain prohibited. Land border crossings with mainland China remain restricted; authorized travelers are permitted entry at Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and Shenzhen Bay checkpoint only. Non-resident foreign nationals remain restricted in entering the territory. Travelers from Macau, Taiwan, and mainland China can enter Hong Kong, provided they have no recent travel history elsewhere. Hong Kong has designated Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa, and the US as high risk. Permitted passengers arriving from these locations must provide certain documents, including proof of negative COVID-19 results from a test taken within 72 hours prior to departure and a hotel booking for the quarantine period. Passengers will be testing upon and arrival and be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
As of Thursday, September 17, there have been 4984 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hong Kong and 102 associated fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
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