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Up to 4 people may dine together starting Thursday

16 February 2021

By The SUN 

Chan says 4 people may dine together, but only 2 can gather in public

The promised relaxation of social distancing restrictions will go ahead as planned, according to Health Secretary Dr Sophia Chan during a press briefing today, Feb 16.

She said that from Thursday, up to four people from the current two will be able to dine together in a restaurant until 10pm, four hours later than the present cut-off time of 6pm.

However, the Executive Council will still have to give approval for relaxing the gathering ban to allow up to four people to get together in public, instead of the present two.

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Chan said that the relaxation of rules comes amid a marked decline in the number of infections across the city.

""The latest development and risk assessment led us to believe we can steadily relax social distancing let livelihood resume in an orderly manner," she said.

As part of the easing of restrictions, some businesses like cinemas, theme parks, gyms and beauty and massage parlors will be allowed to reopen, as well as all indoor and outdoor sports venues.

But she did not respond to a question on when schools will be allowed to resume classes.

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The relaxation of dine-in restrictions comes with the condition that restaurant staff will have to be tested every fortnight and proprietors should take measures to improve the ventilation in their venues.

Chan said more community testing centers will be opened to cater to workers in the reopened venues, who have been queuing up so they can go back to work immediately. Reports say appointment slots at the testing centers have been filled up to the expected reopening of most businesses on Thursday.


Another problem foreseen by businesses is the requirement that they use the StayHomeSafe app, or record each of their customer’s personal information.

Any restaurant that violates the rules will be banned from providing evening dine-in services for up to two weeks, while other businesses that don't comply may be fined and jailed.

Bars will remain shut despite the latest relaxation of rules (File)

Many businesses have told the government they expect a bumpy road ahead for this rule, as most people are hesitant to download the app, fearing it will track their every movement.


Bar owners and staff are also up in arms, questioning why they had been shut since November 26 last year, when the government said the spike in the fourth wave of infections happened only in mid-January.

Because bars had been closed for half of last year, many workers have either lost their jobs, or are forced to take unpaid leaves and pay cuts.

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Further down the line are the musicians whose jobs now depend not only on the reopening of bars, but also on when the government would allow live music to resume.

Many of the musicians have been out of jobs since April last year when Covid-19 swept across bars. Around 100 people - musicians, staff, patrons and their family members – were either infected or moved to quarantine centers as a result.

Live music was allowed to resume for only brief periods since, before being totally halted in October last year.

Chan said it’s not likely the rules will be loosened further anytime soon.

“I don’t think the next phase of relaxation will be very soon,” she added.

She said authorities will closely monitor the situation to see if there is a resurgence in coronavirus cases now that the long Lunar New Year holiday is over, before deciding on any further moves.

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