Schools, cinemas, eateries and beauty parlours set to reopen in Hong Kong
Govt to reopen schools and some businesses, and hand out reusable masks
HONG KONG : Hong Kong yesterday announced plans to ease major social distancing measures, including reopening schools, cinemas, bars and beauty parlours after it largely halted local transmission of the coronavirus.
The relaxation, which comes into effect from Friday, will be a boost for a city mired in a deep recession following months of virus restrictions as well as anti-government protests that have battered the economy.
Authorities also unveiled plans to hand out reusable face masks to all 7.5 million city residents.
Hong Kong recorded some of the earliest confirmed Covid-19 cases outside of mainland China. But despite its close proximity and links to the mainland, it managed to keep infections to around 1,000 with just four deaths.
There have been no new confirmed infections in 10 of the last 16 days and the cases that have been recorded came from people arriving from overseas, who are quickly quarantined.
"I hope these measures will be a silver lining for citizens," the city's leader Carrie Lam said yesterday as she spelt out the easing of curbs.
Older secondary students will start returning to classes from May 27 while younger children will resume school in the first half of June.
A ban on more than four people gathering in public or eating together in restaurants will be stepped up to eight.
Bars and restaurants will be permitted to operate but must ensure a distance of 1.5m between tables. Live music performances and dancing however will remain banned.
Cinemas can start showing films to reduced crowds while gyms, beauty, massage and mahjong parlours will reopen with hygiene protocols in place such as the use of masks, hand sanitiser and temperature checks.
Nightclubs and karaoke bars must stay closed.
In South-east Asia, Indonesia yesterday reported its biggest daily rise in infections with 484 new cases, taking its total to 12,071, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said.There were eight deaths, taking the total to 872.
In Malaysia, many people have been flocking to pawn shops, which were allowed to reopen on Monday, as the country began easing a partial lockdown amid an unprecedented economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
Long queues were seen outside pawn shops in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Johor, Melaka and other states.
Many Malaysians have been struggling with financial hardship after suddenly being unable to work or having lost their jobs due to a movement control order, in particular lower income groups, the self-employed and daily wage earners.
Malaysia yesterday recorded 30 new cases, bringing its total to 6,383 .
The health ministry also reported one new death, raising the total of fatalities to 106.
The Philippines reported 14 deaths and 199 additional infections. Deaths have reached 637, while confirmed cases have increased to 9,684, the health ministry said.
Thailand reported one new case and no deaths. It now has 2,988 cases and 54 deaths. - AFP, THE STRAITS TIMES, REUTERS