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Penalties raised to $5k-$10k for violators of social distancing rules

04 December 2020

 By Daisy CL Mandap

The government warns of strict enforcement of the new rules

Penalties for those found to have violated social distancing rules have been raised from between $5,000 to $10,000, from the present $2,000. The new law takes effect a week from now, or on Dec 11.

The lesser amount of $5,000 (level 2 fine) is a fixed penalty that will be imposed on the following:

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1) Those who take part in prohibited gatherings, which under the latest regulations, is set at no more than two people together in public, including inside restaurants.

2) Those who do not wear a mask in all public places, including in all forms of public transportation and the paid area of the MTR, save for outdoor areas of country parks; and

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3) Those who fail to comply with the government’s order for compulsory Covid-19 testing. These include those who visited dance clubs where hundreds of cases have been traced.

If the offender does not pay the fixed penalty and is charged in court, the maximum penalty upon conviction would go up to level 3, or $10,000.

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A statement issued today announcing the harsher penalties also warned of stricter enforcement of the social gathering restrictions.

“If compliance is not satisfactory, the Government does not rule out the possibility of further raising the penalties,” said the statement.

Not wearing a mask in any public place could cost you $5k

The possibility of jacking up penalties was brought up on Dec 1 by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who raised concern about the rapid surge in the number of coronavirus infections in the city, particularly those related to the so-called dance cluster.

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The number of infected people from this cluster has now climbed to around 500, after the government issued a compulsory testing order for those who had visited several dancing venues across the city.

Also of concern is the growing number of cases whose sources cannot be traced. Yesterday, out of 90 new infections, 31 were of unknown sources.

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Certain groups,  are however, exempted from the gathering ban, including those on board public transportation, those gathered for work, funeral, or a wedding ceremony where up to 20 people can attend, but with no food being served.

Those living in the same household are also exempted, meaning they can go out together, but are still subject to gathering restrictions in some venues, like restaurants, where the two-to-a-table rule is strictly enforced.

A statement from the Food and Health Bureau said today, "Anti-epidemic work requires the cooperation and self-discipline of all citizens by strictly complying with various anti-epidemic measures, including avoiding crowds, keeping social distance and maintaining personal hygiene.”

“Faced with the epidemic surge, apart from tightening various infection control measures, it is imperative to increase the relevant penalties in order to create the necessary deterrence effect and ensure strict compliance with relevant requirements."


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