March 23, 2022
HONG KONG – Business leaders, and the catering and tourism communities have welcomed the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government’s move to ease COVID-19 restrictions, as they expect the relaxation to provide a road map for businesses to return to normalcy. However, medical experts have warned the government to be extra cautious.
“The phased relaxation of social restrictions will help businesses and the community return to normalcy. With the support of consumption vouchers and other financial support measures, we hope that Hong Kong’s economy will soon emerge from the plight of the epidemic, embarking on the path to recovery,” said Peter Wong Tung-shun, chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, on Monday.
The phased relaxation of social restrictions will help businesses and the community return to normalcy. With the support of consumption vouchers and other financial support measures, we hope that Hong Kong’s economy will soon emerge from the plight of the epidemic, embarking on the path to recovery.
Peter Wong Tung-shun, chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce
The government announced a relaxation of COVID-19 rules in three stages over the next three months, from April 21, starting with the resumption of nightly dine-in services and the reopening of gyms. The lifting of an inbound travel ban on nine countries will start on April 1 as part of measures, unveiled by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Monday.
“This is a much-anticipated step,” Wong stressed, referring to the removal of a ban on international flights. “Hong Kong is an important global business hub. We hope that as the vaccinated population increases and the public is fully protected, the right conditions will be in place for a full border reopening in Hong Kong.”
The Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong welcomed the lifting of the flight ban, as it looks forward to measures that will maintain Hong Kong’s status as an international financial and trade center. The group said it hopes to see the arrangement being extended to non-Hong Kong residents to attract multinational enterprises and investors.
The catering industry in Hong Kong is also supportive of the relaxation measures, hoping that the relief will help restaurants to operate again.
“The government’s decision shows that it has a road map of easing the curbing measures. With the relaxation, the catering sector now needs to mull how to run the business,” said Simon Wong Ka-wo, chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades.
“We hope that the relaxation of social distancing measures can be effective next month so that restaurants can operate their businesses, and in the process, they will hire workers again. This will balance the general social interest of economic development,” Wong noted.
The first phase of a relaxation in COVID-19 rules will allow dine-in services in catering premises until 10 pm and public gatherings of four people, up from two, starting from April 21.
During the second stage, all scheduled premises will be allowed to reopen, diners in catering premises will be relaxed to eight people per table and operating hours will be extended till midnight. Bars, pubs, beaches and swimming pools will be allowed to open in the second stage.
As restrictions are due to be eased, the tourism sector expects that the time has come for local tour businesses to resume, said Lo Sui-on, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress and a veteran of the tourism industry. He added that universal testing could be taken into consideration when the situation stabilizes – in preparation for cross-border travel within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
Although the epidemic situation is showing signs of improvement, medical experts have warned the government to be extra cautious while examining social distancing measures due to the existing transmission chains and a high number of daily cases, said Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee on Tuesday.
“The relaxation of social distancing measures should not be too fast, nor should all measures be relaxed at once,” she cautioned.