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HK musicians celebrate return of live music

27 October 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Bands will be back in bars starting Friday


Christmas came early this year for many musicians in Hong Kong. This is because after nearly seven months of being sidelined by pandemic fears, the city’s musicians will be back to on stage starting this Friday, Oct 30.

“Feeling awesome! ”, said an ecstatic Manuela D. Lo, chairman of the Hong Kong Musicians Union, shortly after Secretary for Food and Health  Dr. Sophia Chan announced the good news.

“All musicians can have a blessed Christmas (because of this),” Lo added.

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In her much-anticipated announcement, Dr. Chan said: “Live performances and dancing activities will be allowed to take place in catering businesses subject to the implementation of suitable infection control measures.”

The health chief also said that restaurants will now be allowed up to six people per table, while bars and nightclubs can seat a maximum of four people, from the present two.

Dr Chan at a news conference to announce the relaxed rules

In addition, the catering businesses will be allowed to operate up to 75 percent capacity, up from the current 50 percent, and extend their opening hours from midnight till 2am.

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Other leisure and sports facilities like theme parks, swimming pools and performance venues will also be allowed to admit people up to 75 percent of their capacity.

But the government decided to stick to the rule allowing no more than four people to gather in public, saying the plan is for a “gradual and targeted” relaxation of distancing measures.

Dr Chan made her announcement as no new local infection was again reported today, Oct 27. All five new Covid-19 cases involved people returning from overseas, four of them from India, and one from France.

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All eight new cases reported yesterday were also all imported, while on previous days, there was often only one locally acquired case detected, a sure sign that the current wave of infection has eased.

But in a separate address today, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced she was pressing with an inquiry into the legality of making Covid-19 tests mandatory, in the wake of warnings from health experts that a deadlier fourth wave could occur this winter.

Dr Chan explained, “generally speaking, we urge the public not to gather (still). This is important).

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But for musicians, worries over the heightened restrictions are trumped by their joy at being able to go back to work and play music once more.

An HKMU member who was part of a small group Lo created to lobby support for the long-standing call of musicians for live performances to resume, said that all bands will be celebrating on Friday.

“No more karaokes,” he joked, and no more cat and mouse games with the police, which had been zealously checking on bars to ensure the government’s social distancing protocols were followed.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang Kwentong Dream Love

Lo and her group of advisers had previously held talks with Tommy Cheung, catering sector in the Legislative Council, who later set up a meeting for them with top health officials.

During the talks, the HKMU stressed that the musicians were willing to propose their own safety measures, like singing with masks on, bringing their own microphones and not interacting with patrons during their performances, just to start working again.

Bars across Hong Kong were first closed on Apr 3 this year, after the coronavirus spread across four nightspots in Central, Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui, leaving more than 20 musicians infected, and about 50 others in quarantine.

The bars were allowed to reopen briefly in July, but were promptly shut again after a third and deadlier wave swept across the city.

On Sept 18, bars were allowed to resume business, but with no live shows still.

Lo says the resumption of live music is an early Christmas gift to musicians

In a letter Lo sent to Cheung on Oct 1 asking for help, she said an estimated 1,000 musicians had been left jobless for nearly seven months by the bar closures.

She said “we have been unfairly shown to be the carriers of the virus, when we were in fact, victims,” referring to health data showing that bar patrons were the first to show signs of the disease, indicating they had infected the musicians.

“And yet, we are the ones who have suffered the most from that incident. Bars and pubs are always among the last to reopen when the government starts relaxing social distancing measures, and even when they are allowed to do business again, very strict regulations are put in place, including a ban on live shows.”

Now that she and her fellow musicians will soon be back at work, Lo has only one more wish, and that is, for them to continue performing in the months and years ahead. “Hopefully, continuous na,” she said.

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