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night market
Photograph: Shutterstock

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

Here's what you can and can't do in Hong Kong starting October 30

By Time Out Hong Kong
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The government recently announced easing some of the strict social distancing restrictions that were implemented to combat the current outbreak in the city. If you have questions about the new restrictions and rules on public gatherings and would like to keep abreast on 'what you can or can't do' or 'what is still open', we've combed through public information and recent government announcements to shed light on some of the relevant things you should know.

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What is the current rule about public gatherings?

Social distancing restrictions are extended starting on October 30 until November 5.

Since September 11, the government already started allowing groups of four people to gather in public, from the previous restriction of only two people. If people are caught gathering in groups of more than the allowed 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.' 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. 

The government requires mandatory mask-wearing when entering terminals, boarding and while onboard public transport, as well as indoor and outdoor public places except when exercising or hiking outdoors and in country parks. If you are caught violating the mask-wearing regulations, you will get a fine of $5,000. If an authorised public officer caught you not wearing a mask in the required venues, they are allowed to issue a fixed penalty of $2,000. 

Since October 2, religious activities are allowed at places of worship providing the number of participants do no exceed a capacity of 50 percent. During such activities, no food or drink can be served unless it is part of a religious ritual.

For those with wedding plans you can now invite up to 50 attendees to your nuptial ceremony, but the reception is a no-no, as food and drink is prohibited. The silver lining – at least you won't have to spend so much on the wedding preparations. 

The number of people allowed in business meetings is also raised to 50 from the previous 20.

Since there is an uptick in domestic travel, licensed travel agencies are now allowed to host local tours for up to 30 people. All local tours must be registered with the Travel Industry Council, and agencies must purchase health insurance for the tourists, record their contact information, and conduct temperature checks. Tourists are required to wear masks throughout the trip unless during meal times. Transport provided for the tours must not exceed more than 50 percent its capacity.

Duddell's dim sum
Duddell's dim sum
Photograph: Courtesy Duddell's

Can I eat at the nearest restaurant?

Some of the stringent restrictions in dining in restaurants will be relaxed starting October 30. Hong Kong eateries will be allowed to extend dine-in services until 2am from previously scheduled 12mn, and can further expand their service capacity to 75 percent, and seat six people per table. 

Body temperature checks and hand sanitiser will be given to guests upon arrival at establishments. Customers must also wear masks before and after the meal and when picking up their orders. 

If you'd like to know which restaurants are temporarily closed, here's a list that we update regularly. You may also check our recommendations on the best restaurants currently offering delivery and takeaway. There are also a few restaurants joining the city's food offering, so check out our line-up of the best new restaurants to try in Hong Kong

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Lobster Bar
Lobster Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Lobster Bar

Can I finally drink at my favourite bar?

Starting October 30, bars, pubs, karaoke lounges, and nightclubs are allowed to operate at 75 percent capacity, seat four people per table, and close their venues after 2am. 

Live performances will finally be allowed to take place at designated venues, and dance floors will reopen to resume activities. 

Intense hygiene practices must be implemented to protect their staff and customers. Aside from making sure that staff members wash their hands and regularly sanitise before touching food and drinks, the staff is required to wear masks. Before people can enter the premises, they will do a quick temperature check, and anyone with a temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius will not be allowed to enter. Regular disinfection of public areas, tables, chairs, bathrooms, and bar counters will be continued. Bars will not allow entry for those not wearing a mask.   

If you're planning to go out for drinks this Halloween, read our roundup of spots to visit in the city. If you feel like drinking at a safe distance at home, a lot of your favourite bars have started to offer takeaway or delivery. Some of these offerings will continue, so make sure to call your favourite neighbourhood bar for orders and enquiries.  

Nam Shan Camping Site
Nam Shan Camping Site
Photograph: Kelvin Tse

Can I go to camps and beaches for fresh air?

Starting November 3, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) leisure facilities and beaches, under the management of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) will finally reopen. 

LCSD's park lawns and outdoor jogging tracks remain open. Starting October 30, swimming pools can also increase accommodation to 75 percent capacity. Country parks have also reopened, but barbecue sites and campsites are off-limits. 

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Hiking in Discovery Bay
Hiking in Discovery Bay
Photograph: Courtesy of Discovery Bay

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.

tone and sculpt workout
tone and sculpt workout
Photograph: Courtesy Impakt

How about sports and fitness centres?

Gyms and fitness centres reopened on September 4, but these facilities can only operate with certain restrictions. Fitness classes can only accommodate four people in the studio, including the trainer. Everyone must wear a mask inside the gym except during shower 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. However, sauna facilities will remain closed.

Team sports with more than four persons are permitted with the maximum number of persons allowed based on the particular team sports activities.

The LCSD's outdoor and indoor leisure facilities began reopening in phases last May but have also announced temporary closures when the city experienced the third wave. However, last August 28, outdoor sports venues started to reopen again, which includes sports grounds running tracks, badminton courts, tennis courts, bowling greens, archery range, golf driving range, and golf courses. LCSD's outdoor non-fee charging gateball courts has reopened since September 26. 

If you're planning to exercise at home, check out our recommendations for the best fitness programs and dance classes online and get some home workout essentials to kickstart your fitness regimen.

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House 1881
House 1881
Photograph: Courtesy House 1881

Can I book a staycation?

Hotels remain open, but of course, it is important to be responsible and always take precautionary measures to ensure your safety. 

Our local hotels are offering great staycation packages to welcome the summer months. So, pack your bags and treat yourself to a vacation that's not too far away from home. Alternatively, you may book a weekend getaway from the best beachside locations in the cityboutique hotels, or have a staycation with your furry pet at any of these hotels. Or get a little R&R for you and your significant other at the best romantic hotels in the city or the cosiest and most Instagrammable Airbnbs in town. 

If you are a Hong Kong resident returning to the city, Ovolo Hotel launched a 14-night quarantine concierge service with special services that support returnees' physical and mental wellbeing. 

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. You can finally have your manicures and pedicures as these establishments have resumed operations since August 28 with certain restrictions like a 1.5m partitioning between service seats and all staff are required to wear masks and face shields.  

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Cinema
Cinema
Photograph: Shutterstock

Can I finally go to the movie house?

You can finally watch the latest films on the big screen. Cinemas have been allowed to reopen since August 28 but are only allowed to operate at 75 percent of seating capacity, providing that seats will not be occupied four consecutive seats in the same row. Cinema operators will require limited physical contact with patrons. 

Make sure you eat before heading to the movie house because drinks and food are not allowed inside, that includes your favourite popcorn!

If you are still uncomfortable heading to the movie house, stream your favourite movies and TV shows from home.

Can I still travel?

The public is encouraged to avoid all non-essential travel outside the city. All Hong Kong residents returning to the city are required to submit a health declaration form and will undergo a saliva test for the COVID-19 virus at the Temporary Specimen Collection Centre (TSCC) set up in the restricted area of the airport. Residents are subject to a 14-day compulsory quarantine unless exempted under the 'Compulsory Quarantine of Certain Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation'.

All non-Hong Kong residents coming from overseas countries and regions by plane will be denied entry to Hong Kong. Non-Hong Kong residents coming from the Mainland, Macau, and Taiwan will be denied entry if they have been to any overseas countries and regions in the past 14 days. For updates on travel restrictions, please visit this link

Hong Kong and Singapore's two-way travel bubble will start this November, allowing a quarantine-free air route between the two cities. The highly-anticipated travel bubble will have no restrictions placed on the purpose of the trip and will not require travellers to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Travellers must, however, provide a negative test PCR (polymerase chain reaction) result for the virus 72 hours prior to departure in both regions, and fly only on designated flights. 

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, please visit this link.

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Four Seasons spa
Four Seasons spa
Photograph: Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong

This is so stressful, can I get a massage?

Since September 4, the public can get a pampering massage at their favourite spa establishments in the city.

Registered Chinese medicine practitioners are also 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.

Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland
Photograph: Courtesy Hong Kong Disneyland

Are there other venue openings that I should know about?

Entertainment venues including skating rinks, bowling alleys, mahjong/tin kau parlours, billiard rooms, and game centres have been allowed to reopen since September 11. Performance venues with a live audience have resumed operations since October 1. 

Since September 18, the government finally allowed theme parks to reopen. Ocean Park resumed operations on September 18, while Hong Kong Disneyland reopened on September 25, but live performances are only allowed in outdoor areas. 

Party rooms and bathhouses have also resumed operations on September 18. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) public libraries and museums have also resumed regular opening hours since September 29. Watch this link for updates on LCSD reopening facilities.   

Stay up to date with the latest information on cancelled events and closed venues from our regularly updated list. 

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 both online and offline all over the city, check out our guide to all the best things to do in Hong Kong in October. 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 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.

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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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