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Dine-in until 9pm to resume Friday, but gathering ban still in effect

25 August 2020

By The SUN

Nighttime dine-in is back, but only until 9pm, and still with  only 2 to a table 
Hong Kong’s health officials have announced that residents may now eat at restaurants until 9pm, but the ban on more than two people going out together in public will remain in place.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan made the announcement this morning, a few hours before the Centre for Health Protection announced that the city recorded 19 new cases today, Aug 25. This is more than twice as many as the nine reported yesterday, the lowest daily tally since Jul 3.

Speaking ahead of the Executive Council meeting, Dr Chan said the number of daily cases has been declining, giving reason for the strictest restrictions ever imposed in the city to be relaxed a bit.

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“Under the new normal, it is almost not possible for us to wait until there are no more local cases before relaxing the social-distancing measures,” Chan said.

Explaining why a dine-in ban after 9pm is still considered necessary, she said the government wants to limit the time when people are allowed not to wear masks in public, “but then balancing it with the need.”

This is the same reason why the gathering ban will remain in force, the health minister said.
“The two-person limit will remain for the same reason (that) we do not want to have too many people gathering together while they have their masks off,” she said.

To give people more breathing space, those who exercise outdoors and stroll in country parks will also be allowed to take off their masks. But she said everybody should still bear in mind that the virus is still around, so they must continue to take care.

At the same time, she announced that certain venues will reopen from Friday, including cinemas, beauty parlors and some venues for non-contact sports like golf and tennis.
Beauty parlors will be back in business starting Friday

Meanwhile, Centre for Health Protection’s Dr Chuang Shuk-wan reported that today’s new cases included three new arrivals from overseas.

One was a seaman who arrived from Egypt, while the two others were on board the Air India flight that flew in on Aug 14, which has prompted a two-week ban on the airline.

Today’s confirmed cases are the 20th and 21st from that flight alone.

 Of the 16 local cases, eight were linked to previous cases, while the other half was of unknown source. They altogether brought the city’s total tally to 4,710, with 77 related deaths.

All the linked cases came from family clusters, meaning relatives who dined or gathered together, while the untraceable cases involved people from all walks of life – retirees, housewives, unemployed, engineers, and so forth.

About 20 other people tested preliminary positive. Among them is a boy aged a year and a half, who was found infected as he was about to undergo surgery at Hong Kong Children’s Hospital. He has since been moved to an isolation room at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

According to Dr Chuang, the boy was found to have antibodies, which could indicate that he had been infected earlier, but showed no signs. His mother also had antibodies, which could indicate they were infected at the same time.

The boy’s father and sister have been identified as close contacts, and will be put under quarantine.

Dr Chuang said the boy’s case underlined the importance of the universal testing set to start on Sept. 1, as its primary objective is to flush out the asymptomatic carriers responsible for the silent transmission in the community.

“For universal testing, we are carrying out a lot of tests, our objective is to identify as many silent carriers as possible,” she said.

Health officials are also concerned about the outbreak at the Hong Chi Association care home for the mentally disabled which is in Lei Muk Shue in Kwai Chung.

Dr Chuang said give residents and a carer at the facility tested preliminary positive today, after three staff were found infected yesterday.

All the 50 staff at the care home have been moved to a quarantine centre, while the 40 residents were sent to the AsiaWorld-Expo isolation facility where they are being looked after by carers.

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