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Things you need to know about Hong Kong's social distancing restrictions

What you can or can't do in Hong Kong until October 13

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Written by
Tatum Ancheta
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September 29: Most of the social distancing rules will be kept in place for 14 more days until October 13 but they will be easing the rules for banquets in premises where the staff have been fully vaccinated. From September 30, catering businesses with fully vaccinated staff can increase the size of banquets from 180 to 240 people, as long as two-thirds of the customers have also received at least the first dose of the vaccine. 

According to the government the extension of the restriction must be maintained to reduce the risk of infection in the community including unvaccinated seniors. 

In an earlier statement in August, Hong Kong authorities announced that they would extend the expiry dates of various regulations under the Prevention & Control of Disease Ordinance until March 31, 2022. So, expect that rules will be in place for a longer period, but conditions may change – tighten, relax or even suspend – depending on the developments of the circumstances in the city. 

Read below for more information about the current restrictions and rules on public gatherings, and keep abreast on 'what you can or can't do' or 'what is still open'.

RECOMMENDED: Got questions about Hong Kong's Covid-19 vaccine rollout? This explainer outlines everything we know so far. Visit this guide, for more information on the perks that vaccinated Hongkongers can receive in the city. 

Can I still travel?
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

Can I still travel?

The public is encouraged to avoid all non-essential travel outside the city. All Hong Kong residents returning to town must adhere to relevant boarding, quarantine, and testing arrangements

Requirements for inbound travellers will be adjusted based on the epidemic situation of the place they are coming from. These places will be categorised into high-risk, medium-risk, and low-risk groups. Visit this link to see the complete list of requirements. Since August 20, Hong Kong tightened quarantine arrangements for inbound travellers from countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, France, Greece, Iran, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the US, and Australia.

After several postponement, Hong Kong and Singapore ceased plans for travel bubble. Both cities have decided not to pursue further discussions due to differences in the anti-epidemic strategies. But Hongkongers are allowed to travel to Singapore without the need for quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status, since Hong Kong falls under ‘very low risk countries and regions’.

Plan to head to The Lion City? Start compiling a bucket list of the places you want to explore, here’s a local insider's guide on the best things to do, eat, and drink in Singapore

Check the government website of your country of origin and your intended destination to see what policies have been put in place and monitor the situation should you plan to travel abroad. For information about countries/areas with reported cases of Covid-19, visit this link.

What is the current rule about public gatherings?

Gathering restrictions will remain at four people in public until further notice. If people are caught gathering in groups of more than the permitted number, there will be a fine of $25,000 and imprisonment for six months for 'any person who participates in a prohibited group gathering; organises a prohibited group gathering; owns, controls or operates the place of the gathering; and knowingly allows the gathering.' Participants caught in the illegal gathering may be discharged by paying a fixed penalty of $5,000.

The only exemptions to the rule are gatherings in public for transportation purposes; for groups performing any governmental function; for groups gathering at a place of work or within hospital and healthcare facilities; persons living in the same household; proceedings in a court; funerals and any other occasions for mourning; and when taking pictures with your family and friends during events or group activities as long as everyone is wearing masks.

The government requires mandatory mask-wearing when entering terminals, boarding and while onboard public transport, as well as indoor and outdoor public places. If you are caught violating the mask-wearing regulations, you will get a maximum fine of $10,000. Fully vaccinated fitness coaches and their students can be exempted from wearing masks during exercise classes, and the same goes for theme park performers who perform outdoors and people using indoor sports premises where all staff and users have been fully vaccinated. 

Under the relaxed regulations for the vaccine bubble, the maximum number of participants allowed for religious activities (where no food or drink is served, except as part of a religious ritual), wedding ceremonies, and business meetings are increased by 50 percent based on the normal capacity of the premises where it is held. If all attendees have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, the maximum number of attendants can be increased to full capacity.  

Local tours will be allowed up to 100 attendees if two-thirds of the participants already received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Those who can’t comply can limit the tour groups to 30 persons.  

Restaurants, along with gyms, hotels, cinemas, and other scheduled venues, are required to display QR codes for the LeaveHomeSafe mobile app, which records your whereabouts and checks whether you have visited any venues as a Covid-19 patient at the same time.

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What venues are reopening?
Photograph: Cara Hung

What venues are reopening?

Since July 30, cruise ships have began the 'cruise to nowhere' voyage as long as all passengers and crew members are fully vaccinated, except for those who can produce valid medical certificates to prove that they are unfit to do so because of health reasons. All crew members are required to undergo a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction-based (PCR) nucleic acid test regularly. Passengers must use the 'LeaveHomeSafe' app and present proof of a Covid-19 PCR nucleic acid test (conducted within 48 hours) before boarding. Cruise ships will operate at a maximum of 50 per cent passenger capacity. 

Venues, including game centres, theme parks, performance venues, museums, billiard establishments, gaming arcades, bowling alleys, and ice skating rinks, have reopened since February 18. 

Performance venues, museums, and theme parks can now operate at maximum capacity if at least two-thirds of the guests have already received the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine. Otherwise capacity will remain at 85 percent. Those performing for live audiences without a mask are required to get a polymerase chain reaction-based nucleic acid test for Covid-19 every 14 days. 

Mahjong parlours are allowed to open under the vaccine bubble. If all employees have received the first dose of the vaccine, the premises may open and operate at 75 percent capacity. For mahjong parlours with fully vaccinated staff, the facility can operate at full capacity. Guests are required to use the LeaveHomeSafe app. 

Ocean Park resumed operations on February 18 – and their new attraction Water World Ocean Park is officially operating  while Hong Kong Disneyland reopened on February 19. Fully vaccinated theme park performers who perform outdoors are exempted from wearing masks. 

While we wait for things to settle and the city to ease social distancing regulations, the Centre for Health Protection advised the public to reduce social activities and maintain appropriate social distance with other people. Maintain good personal hygiene and keep a healthy lifestyle to build up immunity. Here's where to find updated news, alerts, and health tips from the government. 

If you're interested in what is currently happening online and offline all over the city, check out our guide to all the best things to do in Hong Kong this season. 

If you are still staying in to keep the virus at bay, use this time to stay productive, learn something new and gain a few skills. Check out our list of the best online classes that you can take for free. For home entertainment, try a Netflix party with your friends, play some online card games or video games, or learn some new tricks in the kitchen or up your home bar game.

Can I eat at the nearest restaurant?
Photograph: Courtesy Radical Chic

Can I eat at the nearest restaurant?

Restaurants (Type C) operating with vaccinated staff who have already received the first vaccine dose are allowed to open until midnight, seat up to six customers per table, and operate at 75 percent capacity. 

Venues with (Type D) fully vaccinated staff and customers who had at least received one dose of the jab can open until 2am, seat a maximum of 12 persons per table, and operate at full capacity. Banquets can increase to 180 attendees if two-thirds of the participants have already received the first dose of the vaccine. Live performances are allowed if performers already got their first vaccine jab, but masks are required during performances unless they get a polymerase chain reaction-based nucleic acid test for Covid-19 (seven days prior to the first entry to the place and every 14 days thereafter). 

Body temperature checks and hand sanitiser will be given to guests upon arrival at establishments. Guests are required to download and use the LeaveHomeSafe tracing app or leave their information within the premises. Customers must also wear masks before and after the meal and when picking up their orders. 

For inspiration on which eateries to visit, check our recommendations on the city's 50 best restaurants. A few restaurants also join the city's food offering. Here's our line-up of the best new restaurants to try in Hong Kong.

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Can I drink at my favourite bar?
Photograph: Courtesy The Murray

Can I drink at my favourite bar?

Bars, nightclubs, karaoke, and party rooms are allowed to operate under the vaccine bubble regulation. As long as staff have received the first dose of the vaccine and only welcome customers who already had their first vaccine dose, too, these premises will be allowed to operate until 2am at a maximum capacity 75 percent. Bars and nightclubs are allowed to seat four persons per table, while karaoke and party rooms can accommodate up to eight people per room.

If all the staff from bars and nightclubs are fully vaccinated, they can open from 5am to 3.59am and operate at full capacity, and accommodate seating for up to eight persons per table. Live performance are also allowed following the same rules as restaurants under the vaccine bubble. 

The same operating hours will be applied for party rooms and karaoke establishments, but seating per table can be extended for up to 12 persons for karaoke rooms. 

Premises that will not follow the vaccine bubble regulation will remain close.   

Are you planning to go out for drinks in the city? Hit up Hong Kong's 50 best bars or discover new bars in the city. Oktoberfest season is here! Get your pint from the best beer bars in town. 

Are there areas in Hong Kong currently under lockdown?
Photograph: Shutterstock

Are there areas in Hong Kong currently under lockdown?

The government ramped up mandatory testing since the start of Lunar New Year and issued multiple ambush-style lockdowns in various parts of the community in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus. 

During lockdowns, residents around the restricted areas are not allowed to leave the vicinity and are required to comply with the mandatory Covid-19 testing. The testing continues into the night, starting from 7pm until 7am the following day to allow residents to return to work. 

According to chief secretary Matthew Cheung, the government's goal is to drop the city's Covid-19 cases to zero so that social gathering restrictions can eventually allow businesses and schools to reopen. More lockdowns are expected in the future. 

If one or more new confirmed cases with unknown sources are found in any residential buildings "including buildings for both commercial and residential uses – or there are sewage samples tested positive which implied possible infection risks, the buildings will be included in the compulsory testing notice." 

For more information on lockdown affected areas, visit this website for regular government announcements.  

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Are swimming pools and beaches open?
Photograph: Courtesy WM Hotel

Are swimming pools and beaches open?

Swimming pool capacity must not exceed 50 percent, and everyone is required to wear a mask at all times except when swimming, having a shower, walking from a changing room to a pool or vice versa. Pools with spectator stands can increase its seating capacity to 85 percent as long as no more than six consecutive seats in the same row should be occupied. 

If swimming pool staff and customers have been fully vaccinated, the facilities can operate at full capacity. Jacuzzi and sauna facilities will remain closed. 

Leisure and Cultural Services Department's (LCSD) beaches and swimming pools have reopened since April 1. Visit this link to keep updated on various LCSD spots that will remain open or closed to the public.  

If you're planning your weekend break, make sure to get a reservation at the best beachside hotels, bars, and restaurants in the city, or book a stay in the hotels with the most picturesque pools.

Can I book a staycation?
Photograph: Courtesy WM Hotel

Can I book a staycation?

Hotels remain open, but they must adhere to specific guidelines imposed by the government. That includes limiting the number of guests in each guestroom to four persons and up to eight people in a suite. Room visitors are required to register their personal information. Intense hygiene practices must be implemented to protect their staff and the guests, which will include regular body temperature screening and thorough cleaning and disinfection of facilities and amenities before the arrival of a new guest. Hand sanitisers must be available in rooms. 

Hotel operators must take effective measures to prevent those under self-isolation from leaving their rooms. Visitors for guests under quarantine are not allowed. If a family member or a friend needs to send food or any goods for replenishing, they can give the items to the hotel staff to place outside of the guest's room. If a person under compulsory hotel quarantine requires the company of a carer, involved parties must request permission from the Department of Health. Once allowed, carers must be quarantined in the hotel until the end of the isolation period.  

Breaking quarantine orders is a criminal offence and offenders are subject to a maximum imprisonment of six months and a fine of $25,000. 

If you are a Hong Kong resident returning to the city, click here to see the full list of government-designated quarantine hotels. 

If you're looking for staycation packages for a little R&R, check out our Hotel Diaries at Four Seasons Hotel, Sheraton Tung Chung, and The Ritz-Carlton. You can also schedule a weekend getaway from the best beachside hotels, boutique hotels, or have a staycation with your furry pet at any of these hotels. If you're planning a vacation for you and your significant other, check out the best romantic hotels in the city.

Want to win free staycay at The Ritz-CarltonTake our Time Out Hong Kong 2021 Readership Survey for a chance to win!

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Ok, can I just go for an outdoor hike?
Photograph: Shutterstock

Ok, can I just go for an outdoor hike?

Any outdoor activities must be carried out whilst adhering to the social distancing rule. For the latest updates on facilities in country parks, call 1823 for enquiries or visit hiking.gov.hk.

How about sports and fitness centres?
Photograph: Facebook/CrossfitCavaliers

How about sports and fitness centres?

Gyms, fitness centres, and sports venues are allowed to operate but sauna facilities will remain closed.

Guests are required to use the LeaveHomeSafe tracing app every time they enter the premises.

Fitness classes can only accommodate four people in the studio, including the trainer. Everyone must wear a mask inside the gym except during showers or exercise, but gym staff and coaches must wear a mask at all times. Partitions will be placed in gyms, and equipment will be set at 1.5m apart. 

Under the vaccine bubble regulation, fully vaccinated fitness coaches and their students can be exempted from wearing masks during exercise classes. Those using indoor sports premises where all staff and users have been fully vaccinated are exempted from wearing masks. The government allows more people to join fitness classes if participants are arranged into sub-groups of four with a 1.5 metres distance from each group. 

Visit this link for more information on LCSD's outdoor and indoor leisure facilities. 

If you're planning to exercise at home, check out our recommendations for the best fitness programmes, Nintendo games that can replace your workout, and get some home workout essentials to kickstart your fitness regimen.

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Can I get a haircut in the nearest salon?

Yes, you can get a haircut. Barbershops and hair salons are allowed to operate because these establishments are exempted from the closure rule. However, they must operate with 1.5m partitioning between service seats and all staff are required to wear masks and face shields.  

Beauty parlours like nail treatment salons offering manicure or pedicure services have reopened since February 18. 

Can I finally go out to watch a movie?
Photograph: Shutterstock

Can I finally go out to watch a movie?

You can watch the latest films on the big screenUnder the vaccine bubble regulation cinemas can now operate at maximum capacity if at least two-thirds of the guests have already received the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine. Otherwise capacity will remain at 85 percent, providing that seats will not be occupied six consecutive seats in the same row.

Check with the venue on operating hours before heading out to watch a movie, and make sure you eat before because drinks and food are not allowed inside, that includes your favourite popcorn!

If you want to stay on the safe side, stream your favourite movies and TV shows from home.

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This is so stressful, can I get a massage?
Photograph: TA

This is so stressful, can I get a massage?

Spa establishments and massage parlours have reopened since February 18. However, the steam and sauna facilities remain closed. 

Registered Chinese medicine practitioners are allowed to operate, and if you need therapy for medical reasons, physiotherapy centres and certified chiropractic establishments remain open. 

If you're looking for other ways to destress, get started with CBD products and essential oils. Or turn your attention to indoor plants to lower levels of anxiety and stress, bring a touch of nature into your homes with the help of these plant delivery services. You may also check out some of our recommendations for the best ways to unwind and relax while waiting for things to settle.

What if I have more questions?

In order to address questions from the public, the government has set up an FAQ page about the latest social distancing regulations. For the latest news and announcements from the government, you may visit gov.hk.

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