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Musicians urge live performances to resume as officials mull bar reopening

12 September 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

HKMU officers & advisers led by Lo (in green shirt) met with Cheung to air their concerns 

Musicians are calling for the resumption of live performances as Hong Kong officials have assured that bars, karaokes and nightclubs could reopen by next week if the infection rate remains at a low level.

Manuela D. Lo, chairman of the Hong Kong Musicians Union, says she hopes the reopening of bars could again lead to live shows being allowed to resume.

“Like before, they opened the bars first, then the live music,” Lo says.

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The head of one of Hong Kong's oldest unions has kept up an appeal for help, particularly for her 100 or so members who have been jobless for months because of the ban on live shows.

Lo estimates that about 1,000 musicians have either lost their jobs or have resorted to doing unrelated work to survive since the pandemic swept across the city early this year.

Including the forced closures from protest-related violence late last year, she says most musicians have been without income for about six months.

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Among those she has called upon for help is lawmaker Tommy Cheung, who represents the catering sector in the Legislative Council.

During a meeting with Cheung on Wednesday last week, the HKMU led by Lo proposed new social distancing measures that the legislator could present to government health officials to convince them to allow live shows.

These include barring musicians from interacting with customers during their performances, for everyone to wear face masks while on stage, and to use protective shields between the performers and the audience.

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Cheung said he had already forwarded their request to the relevant authorities, but it might help if they could appeal directly to the decision-makers. He suggested a meeting between the musicians and a top policy maker as soon as possible.

Live performances were first halted in early April, following an outbreak among about 50 musicians, food servers and customers of four bars in Central, Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui.

They reopened on Jun 18, only to close again after about a month when the third wave of infections swept across Hong Kong.

Cheung has promised to arrange a meeting between HKMU and govt decision-makers

In a separate interview earlier today, Sept 12, Cheung urged the government to reopen bars, karaokes and nightclubs as soon as possible, saying the industry is happy to implement new measures needed for their businesses to reopen safely.

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His call follows a statement made by Health and Food Secretary Sophia Chan last week that pubs, karaoke bars and nightclubs could reopen next if the Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong remains under control.

Starting last Friday, various business establishments previously shut like gyms, beauty and massage parlors were allowed to reopen, and the gathering restrictions relaxed further to allow up to four people to eat and gather together in public.

Cheung has proposed that his sector could take various anti-epidemic measures such as sterilising utensils with boiling water, using e-money and limiting customer stays in the restaurant to no more than two hours, but has yet to get a definite response.

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"We met with the Chief Secretary and a whole bunch of government officials from the FEHD and all that and make our proposals. So far we have no received any word – positive or negative – about our proposals," Cheung said in a radio interview.

Earlier, the chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group, Allan Zeman, also called on the government to make good on its promise to reopen bars from Sept 18.

"The traditional bars, just for drinking, they're having major problems, many of them are on life support, I don't know how much longer they can hang on,” said Zeman in a separate interview with RTHK.


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