Hong Kong reopens venues and extends dining hours as COVID cases fall

HONG KONG, April 21 (Reuters) – Hong Kong on Thursday reopened gymnasiums, beauty salons, theme parks and cinemas for the first time in more than four months as authorities ease some of the toughest COVID restrictions stringent rules in the world that have weighed on residents and businesses.

Many restaurants reported full reservations for the coming weeks as dining out was extended to 10 p.m. (1400 GMT) from 6 p.m. and group gatherings were extended to four people from two previously. Many schools have also resumed in-person learning after months of online classes.

Hong Kong eased measures as authorities in Shanghai said strict coronavirus restrictions would remain in place for the time being. Read more

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Residents flocked to gyms, salons and massage parlours, while others visited temples and churches that had also been closed.

“Everyone has things to do and can earn money. It’s great and people can go out for activities again, everyone is happy,” said Idy Lee, 44, owner of a hair salon in the bustling Mong Kok district.

The easing comes as the number of daily COVID-19 infections in the global financial hub has fallen below 1,000 in the past six days, after peaking above 70,000 on March 3.

While many residents are relieved by the relaxation of rules, dozens of businesses have already closed and tens of thousands have fled the city as authorities reimposed measures in January that were implemented to the first time in 2020.

Hong Kong has been scrambling to impose a “dynamic zero” COVID policy similar to mainland China, which aims to cancel all outbreaks rather than living with the virus as many countries do.

Hong Kong’s borders have been effectively sealed since 2020 with few flights able to land and virtually no passengers allowed through, isolating a city that had built a reputation as a global hub.

Pools and beaches remain closed, frustrating many athletes and residents. Bars, nightclubs and saunas are also still closed, with many unable to stay afloat and others on borrowed time.

“The reopening of gyms is a happy thing, but I hope the government will give us subsidies because we have been closed intermittently for a year and a half and have lost a lot of customers, said Parker Chan, 25. years. former Fitness Formula trainer.

While Hong Kong managed to keep the coronavirus at bay for much of 2021, a surge of the highly contagious variant of Omicron brought the former British colony to its knees in February, overwhelming its world-class medical system as cases were tearing up in the densely populated city. .

It has recorded more than 1.1 million infections and 8,963 deaths.

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Reporting by Joyce Zhou and Aleksander Solum; Written by Farah Master; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree, Christian Schmollinger and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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