Hong Kong, October 20 (ANI): Hong Kong on Tuesday relaxed social distancing measures after recording five new COVID-19 cases. Starting Friday, citizens will be able to join local tours of up to 30 people, and a gathering of no more than 50 guests will be allowed in wedding ceremonies, officials said.
Travel agencies taking advantage of the new rules must implement a series of infection-control measures while operating tours, or risk losing out on subsidies or their right to run groups locally, South China Morning Post reported.
Earlier, tour groups were only allowed to have four members at a time, whereas wedding ceremonies could have only 20 guests.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Health Minister Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said, "When adjusting social-distancing measures, we hope to avoid an all-or-nothing approach, and enhance cooperation with the sectors to enhance infection-control measures in related premises."
Chan added that the government was adopting targeted measures to reduce coronavirus transmission in the country.
Starting Friday, tourists will be required to wear masks throughout their trip and the transport they use can only be 50 percent full.
Other rules include increasing the number of people in business meetings from 20 to 50, while sports teams involving more than four people will be once again allowed in swimming pools.
However, the new wedding rules will not be applied to banquets and no food and drinks will be allowed at the ceremony.
All other social distancing measures will continue to be in effect for another week at least.
South China Morning Post reported that commerce minister Edward Yau Tang-wah at the same press conference said all local tours must be registered with the Travel Industry Council. The travel agency would also need to sign an agreement with the council ensuring members of the tour group complied with a set of rules.
Yau said, "Public health must be ensured in areas of itinerary, transport, dining, attraction visits and staff arrangements." "They must purchase health insurance for the tourists, record contact information of them ... conduct temperature checks and ensure they wear masks throughout the trip," he added.
Yau informed that involved travel agencies will be able to apply for subsidy schemes offered by the government and the Tourist Board.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's announcement came as the city's new caseload was expected to include a highly infectious case discovered at the Yau Tsim Mong temporary testing centre, according to a medical source, the facility's first.
Before meeting the executive council, Lam said, "The recent epidemic situation seems to be stabilised again, there were no untraceable infections over the past three days."
According to the city's leader, her de facto cabinet would discuss relaxing the rules. However, the discussion would not involve major rules, as the city hoped to form travel bubbles with other countries.
The non-permanent centres, at locations chosen based on risk assessments for potential COVID-19 cases including in Kwai Tsing, Kowloon City and Wan Chai, have tested atleast 16,000 samples.
As of Monday, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Hong Kong stood at 5,265, with 105 deaths due to the disease. (ANI)