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

Hong Kong launches vaccine bubble from April 29 until May 12

By Time Out Hong Kong
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April 28: The government announced the easing of rules for vaccinated residents to officially start on April 29. Those who have received doses of the coronavirus vaccine will allow more room for socialisation under the first phase of the 'vaccine bubble'. Starting April 29, restaurants with vaccinated staff who have already received their first dose of the jab will be allowed to operate until midnight and seat up to six customers per table. Thereafter, when staff have received their second vaccination, restaurants can set up a specific area for customers who have taken their first vaccine dose, seat eight guests per table, operate at 75 percent capacity, and resume dining services until 2am. Booking for banquets will also be increased to 100 people. The use of the LeaveHomeSafe app will continue on all premises. 

Bars, nightclubs, public bathhouses, karaoke, party rooms, mahjong parlours will finally be allowed to open as long as staff have received the first dose of the vaccine and only welcome customers who have already gotten their first vaccine dose too. This rule will eventually relax once all staff and customers have received the complete vaccination. Local tours of not more than 30 people can also resume if the relevant staff have received their first vaccine dose.

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.

RECOMMENDED: Got questions about Hong Kong's Covid-19 vaccine rollout? This explainer outlines everything we know so far. And if you want to know more about the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble, visit this guide

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. 

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. 

Religious activities are allowed at places of worship, providing the number of participants does not exceed the 30 percent capacity. During such activities, no food or drink can be served unless it is part of a religious ritual. Under the new vaccine bubble regulation, if all attendees (16 YO and above) have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, the maximum number of attendants can be increased from 30 percent to 50 percent (indoor) and 100 percent (outdoor). 

The number of people allowed in business meetings remains at 20, but if all participants have received the first dose of the vaccine, this number can increase to 50 for indoor and 100 for outdoor gatherings. Those with wedding plans can only invite up to 20 attendees to their nuptial ceremony, but the reception is a no-no, as food and drink are prohibited. Under the vaccine bubble, the number of invitees can be increased to 50 for indoor and 100 for an outdoor wedding.  

Restaurants, along with gyms, hotels, and cinemas, 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.

Hong Kong Street masked army
Hong Kong Street masked army
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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The Aubrey
The Aubrey
Photograph: Courtesy The Aubrey

Can I eat at the nearest restaurant?

Since February 18, Hong Kong eateries are allowed to extend dining services until 10pm and seat four people (from the previous two) per table, but capacity must not exceed 50 percent. Live performances, dancing activities are not allowed in the venues. 

Under the new vaccine bubble, starting April 29, restaurants with vaccinated staff who have already received their first dose of the jab will be allowed to operate until midnight and seat up to six customers per table. Thereafter, when staff have received their second vaccination, restaurants can set up a specific area for customers who have taken their first vaccine dose, seat eight guests per table, operate at 75 percent capacity, and resume dining services until 2am. Booking for banquets will also be increased to 100 people. 

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.

Penicillin bar
Penicillin bar
Photograph: Courtesy Penicillin

Can I finally drink at my favourite bar?

Bars, nightclubs, karaoke, and party rooms will finally be allowed to open starting on April 29 under the vaccine bubble regulation. As long as staff have received the first dose of the vaccine and only welcome customers who have already gotten their first vaccine dose, too, these premises will be allowed to operate until 2am at a maximum capacity 50 percent. Bars and nightclubs will be allowed to seat two persons per table, while karaoke and party rooms can accommodate up to four people per room. This rule will eventually relax once all staff and customers have received the complete vaccination.  

Since November 26 bars, pubs, nightclubs, and party rooms were already required to shut down temporarily. This will continue if premises will not be following the vaccine bubble regulation. Dance floors will remain off-limits, and live performances prohibited.  

Bars with catering permits remain open for business. If you would like to support them here's a list of venues still resuming operations. If you're looking for places to drink this month, visit this link

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.

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Ritz-Carlton
Ritz-Carlton
Photograph: Courtesy The Ritz-Carlton

Are swimming pools and beaches open?

Leisure and Cultural Services Department's (LCSD) beaches and swimming pools have reopened since April 1. Swimming pool capacity must not exceed 30 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. However, the leisure pool, children's pool, and Jacuzzi will remain closed.  

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.

Empty flight
Empty flight
Photograph: 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 are required to submit a health declaration form and undergo a swab test for the Covid-19 virus at the Temporary Specimen Collection Centre (TSCC) set up in the airport's restricted area. 

Since April 20, Hong Kong banned flights from India, Pakistan, and the Philippines for 14 days. These places are declared extremely high-risk due to a number of relevant reported imported cases carrying the mutant strain. The government is also heightening the testing programme for persons returning to Hong Kong from high-risk places overseas. Places included on the list of high-risk countries will need to complete the compulsory quarantine for 21 days as well as the testing on the 12th and 19th day during quarantine, and self-monitor further for another seven days, and be subject to nucleic acid testing on the 26th day from their return to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong and Singapore's two-way travel bubble is scheduled to launch on May 26. Once launched, the air travel bubble will allow a quarantine-free air route between the two cities. To learn more about the travel bubble regulations with Singapore, visit our regularly updated guide

The government is currently talking to various countries, including Japan and South Korea, for future' air travel bubble' arrangements. For updates on travel restrictions, please visit this link.

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.

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House 1881
House 1881
Photograph: Courtesy House 1881

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 the best hotels deals to book right now, or 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.

Hiking in Hong Kong
Hiking in Hong Kong
Photograph: Calvin Sit

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.

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treadmill at gym
treadmill at gym
Photograph: Shutterstock

How about sports and fitness centres?

Gyms, fitness centres, and sports venues have reopened since February 18, 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. 

Since February 9, low-risk sports outdoor venues have reopened. 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.

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. 

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Cinema
Cinema
Photograph: Shutterstock

Can I finally go out to watch a movie?

You can finally watch the latest films on the big screen. Starting April 1, cinemas will increase seating capacity at 75 percent (from previous 50), providing that seats will not be occupied four 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.

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

This is so stressful, can I get a massage?

Spa establishments and massage parlours have reopened since February 18. However, bathhouses, along with the steam and sauna facilities, will 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.

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Ocean Park
Ocean Park
Photograph: Courtesy Ocean Park

Are there other venues reopening?

Venues, including game centres, theme parks, performance venues, museums, billiard establishments, gaming arcades, bowling alleys, and ice skating rinks, have reopened since February 18. Mahjong parlours will be allowed to reopen under the vaccine bubble. If all employees have received the first dose of the vaccine, the premises may reopen and operate until midnight. Guests will be required to use the LeaveHomeSafe app. 

Ocean Park resumed operations on February 18, while Hong Kong Disneyland reopened on February 19. 

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 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.

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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