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Various venues to close, gathering limit cut in two

A number of entertainment venues, including theme parks, will be closed and the public gathering limit reduced from four people to two from Wednesday, as Hong Kong tightens pandemic restrictions amid a surge in coronavirus infections.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Monday that restaurants will need to close at 10pm, and the number of people allowed per table will be lowered to two.

She also announced that most civil servants will be working from home and appealed to private companies to follow suit.

The measures will last for at least two weeks.

Other premises that need to close are games arcades, karaoke lounges, mahjong parlours and swimming pools, while government performance venues will be restricted to training or online performances only.

Gyms, beauty and massage parlours will be allowed to stay open, but must observe stricter rules.

Lam dismissed suggestions that the government has reacted too slowly to the current outbreaks, saying officials have rolled out some measures more quickly than during previous waves of infection.

She also rejected criticism that the government is to blame for the latest outbreaks which are thought to be linked to infected people returning from overseas.

"If every member of the community stuck to the rules of wearing masks, no close contact, no social gathering and staying home as far as possible, we would not have seen this major cluster involving over 500 confirmed cases, and more to come. So do you want to blame to Hong Kong people as well?" she asked.

Lam also said the Department of Justice is studying whether the fixed penalty for violations of social distancing rules can be at least doubled, describing the current HK$2,000 fine as not enough of a deterrent.

She also played down concerns over a hotline officials plan to introduce for people to report irregularities.