HONG KONG – Hong Kong will ease some social distancing measures later this month, allowing people to dine in restaurants at night and lifting restrictions on private gatherings, as the number of COVID-19 infections has fallen in recent weeks.

Starting April 21, restaurants will be able to operate until 10 p.m. with a maximum of four people per table, officials said Thursday.

Other businesses that have been ordered to temporarily close due to Hong Kong’s fifth wave of infections, such as beauty salons, gyms, theme parks and cinemas, will also be allowed to reopen, although capacity will be limited to 50%. Bars and pubs will remain closed.

Restrictions that currently only allow two households to meet will also be lifted.

“To relax these measures, to allow some degree of normal activities in society, with more interactions between citizens, will inevitably come with some transmission risks,” Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said during a press conference on Thursday. .

Lam called on the public to comply with the social distancing measures that are still in place and to get vaccinated.

“While the number of positive cases reported every day has dropped to a relatively low level, in absolute terms it is still quite high,” he said.

The city reported 1,260 cases in the community on Wednesday, more than 95% less than the peak of the outbreak in March, when more than 30,000 daily infections were reported.

Lam said the city is now “much, much better prepared” to handle another wave if it comes, due to higher vaccination levels and more facilities to handle patients, such as community isolation and treatment centers.

Lam also said that the government has not given up on mass testing for the city, but the timing was important.

Other restrictions will also be lifted later this month. Local tours will be allowed to resume and public gatherings of four people instead of two will also be allowed.

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