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Govt says it may regulate private events if advice against big gatherings not heeded

05 January 2021

By The SUN

Dr Chan aired the warning in a RTHK talk show

 

The government has warned that indoor events, including those in private homes, could be regulated if people do not heed the advice to avoid large gatherings to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

This was what Secretary for Food and Health Dr Sophia Chan said in an RTHK program this morning, as she repeated the constant appeal by officials for people in different households to stop gathering and having meals together.

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Chan acknowledged that banning private gatherings could be considered too draconian, and that people have widely divergent views on the issue, but said the government would not hesitate to consider imposing such a measure if needed.

Several outbreaks among family members, especially during the current wave of infections, have been traced to gatherings in private homes of up to 20 people from different households.

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The practice has become quite common since the government imposed strict social distancing measures, including stopping dine-in services at 6pm, and requiring restaurants to ensure that no more than people sit and eat together in their premises.

Many foreign domestic helpers have been complaining about the practice as well, saying they are made to serve too many people too frequently within a week since the restrictions were imposed.

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Ironically, according to them, their employers who invite large crowds to their homes for meals, have been telling them to stay at home during their days-off so they don’t gather and pick up the virus from people outside.

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While controversial, the harsh measure is not unheard of. Several countries plagued by massive Covid-19 outbreaks like Britain, have taken to banning several households from gathering together indoors.

The severest restrictions to date have been extended for a two more weeks, or until Jan 20. Chan and other officials have also said it is not likely the measures will be lifted before the Lunar New Year, which starts on Feb. 12.

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Asked if he traditional Chinese New Year fairs will be held this year, the health secretary said large-scale events should be avoided.

She also said that while the current anti-epidemic measures are working, authorities still need to monitor the situation to see if there is a post-Christmas rebound in infections.

After 6pm dine-in ban will likely remain in place at least until CNY

Tuesday saw a further decline in the number of cases, with 32 being recorded for the day, the lowest since the fourth wave of infections broke out two months ago.

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However, University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said in the same talk show that Lunar New Year events should be cancelled to avoid further outbreaks.

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Ho was particularly concerned about a new surge in cases, particularly in St Margaret Hospital’s day ward, where five infections were reported in the past two days. More than 80 people, including patients, have been tested.

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A fresh cluster also emerged from the construction site in the Tseung Kwan O - Lamtin tunnel, prompting authorities to close the area, and order testing for all workers there.

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