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Showers, pandemic protocols seen to dim Mid-Autumn festivities

29 September 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Brightly colored lanterns used to light up Victoria Park at this time of the year (File) 

Showers, thunderstorms and gathering restrictions due to the coronavirus contagion will dampen the city’s double celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival and the National Day on Oct 1.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said today, Sept 29, that in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the traditional Mid-Autumn lantern carnivals and lantern displays held at Victoria Harbour, Tai Po Waterfront Park, Tsing Yi Park and Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza have been cancelled this year.

It’s the first time in recent memory that the traditional spectacles have been called off.

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Revelers will also miss the Causeway Bay Fire Dragon Dance in Tai Hang, an annual parade that started in 1880 and is considered the biggest of the several fire dragon spectacles in Hong Kong during the festival.

At about this time, the Mid-Autumn decorations would have been hung at Victoria Park, the focal point for the annual celebrations. But the gaily lit lanterns are all gone from the park this year, adding to the bleak atmosphere brought on by the cloudy and wet weather, which the Hong Kong Observatory said will continue Wednesday and Thursday.

But expect the weather to improve over the weekend and usher in cooler days next week, said the Observatory.

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Despite the gloomy forecast, Hongkongers are likely to continue to observe long-held traditions such as family barbecues on private rooftops, dinners at home with relatives, and moon-watching in parks or beaches if ever the sky clears.

The LCSD said it will extend opening hours and make special arrangements at some of its venues, including parks, for the public to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

On Oct 1, the Mid-Autumn Festival, the LCSD will extend by half an hour the opening hours of the Eastern District’s Aldrich Bay Park, which takes pride in its water feature and Fisherman Hut Pavilion. The park will be open from 6.30am to 11pm. 

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On Oct 1, Hong Kong Velodrome Park in Sai Kung District, which features an artificial lake, will open from 6.30am to 2am, an extension of three hours. On Oct, and 2, the day after the festival, the park will open at 6.30am and close at 1am, a two-hour extension.

People are still expected to gather at Victoria Park and other open spaces around Hong Kong to share mooncakes and display their lanterns. But on Oct 2 and 3, the park’s central lawn will be closed from 1am to 2am for cleaning operations, the LCSD said.

In view of the pandemic, the LCSD has appealed to everyone to observe the ban on group gatherings of more than four people in public venues to reduce the chances of spreading the virus. 

LCSD warns people not to enter roped-in beaches and barbecue pits as they remain off-limits 

The department also urged revelers not to enter closed leisure facilities such as public beaches and barbecue sites. They are also not allowed to burn wax, fly sky lanterns or litter at the venues, the LCSD said.

Police will step up patrols at popular venues and remind the public to observe the limit on group gatherings and to wear masks in public places. Enforcement actions will be taken against violators, it said. 

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Meanwhile, the Hospital Authority said that 13 general out-patient clinics will provide services on Oct 1 and 2, but it reminded the public to make advance bookings for appointments either through the Telephone Appointment System or the “Book GOPC” function in its “HA Go” mobile application.

A spokesman said the accident and emergency departments in public hospitals will also operate as usual during the holidays to serve patients with urgent medical needs.

The Transport Department said special traffic and transport arrangements will be implemented on Oct 1.

The MTR, franchised buses, trams, green minibuses and ferries will maintain their normal service hours. The major public transport operators may strengthen the services as demand requires and some special bus services will be operated, the TD said.

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