Why do we need to put in place these regulations?
Maintaining social distancing is key to delay the spread of COVID-19 in Hong Kong. The Government has been reviewing the feasibility of relevant measures and will make adjustments on a timely basis in view of the latest development of the disease.
Putting in place the Prevention and Control of Disease (Requirement and Directions) (Business and Premises) Regulation (Cap. 599F) [the Regulation (Cap. 599F)] and the Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation (Cap. 599G) [the Regulation (Cap. 599G)] could help further enhance social distancing. When making the aforementioned Regulations, the Government has taken into account the activities and premises / places with higher infection risks of COVID-19, as well as overseas practices.
The Government will continue to closely monitor the development of the epidemic situation and announce the latest social distancing measures in a timely manner while striking a balance among disease prevention and control, economic needs and level of acceptance of the society. Co-operation and self-discipline of members of the public is the key to the effectiveness of social distancing measures in preventing the spread of the disease in the community. Only with the co-operation of the public as a whole can the Government continue to allow resumption of social and economic activities in a gradual and orderly manner. Otherwise, when there is a rebound of the epidemic situation with another large-scale outbreak in the community, the Government will have no choice but to significantly tighten social distancing measures in order to safeguard public health.
What is the legal basis for the Regulation (Cap. 599F) and the Regulation (Cap. 599G)?
The aforementioned Regulations are made in accordance with the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (Cap. 599). Section 8 of the Ordinance empowers the Chief Executive in Council to make public health emergency regulation for the purposes of preventing, combating or alleviating the effects of a public health emergency and protecting public health.
The above measures have balanced the oft-competing factors of public health protection, economic impact and social acceptance. They could help maintain social distancing while allowing room for resumption of social activities. The Government will continue to closely monitor the epidemic situation and review the various measures in place with a view to suitably adjusting them taking into account all relevant factors.
Are there other advice and more information?
The Centre for Health Protection strongly urges the public to maintain at all times strict personal and environmental hygiene, which is key to personal protection against infection and prevention of the spread of the disease in the community. On a personal level, members of the public should wear a surgical mask when having respiratory symptoms, taking public transport or staying in crowded places. They should also perform hand hygiene frequently, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes.
Please read and regularly visit the COVID-19 thematic website and the Facebook fan page of the Centre for Health Protection regularly for further information and updates.
Cap. 599F Prevention and Control of Disease (Requirements and Directions) (Business and Premises) Regulation
What are the directions of the Regulation (Cap. 599F)?
The Government has gazetted the directions and specification under Cap. 599F applicable to catering business and scheduled premises. The directions and specifications will take effect on April 15, 2021 for a period of 14 days till April 28, 2021. For details, please refer to the relevant press release and annexes.
What are the legal consequences for contravening the aforementioned regulations?
The persons responsible for carrying on the catering business and the managers of the above premises are reminded that contravening the aforementioned requirements would be a criminal offence. Offenders are subject to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months.
Are customers required to scan the QR code or register their information when ordering takeaway?
If the catering business extends its dine-in service to 10 p.m. and relaxes the limit to four persons at one table, manager of the premises should require customers to scan the ‘LeaveHomeSafe’ venue QR code or register their names, contact numbers and the date and time of their visits before the person is allowed to enter the premises, with written or electronic records to be kept for 31 days.
Since takeaway only does not involve taking off the masks and the stay of customers is shorter than that of dine-in, it is acceptable that customers ordering takeaway (or the takeaway food couriers) are not required to scan the "LeaveHomeSafe" venue QR code or register their information.
Should the catering premises comply with the requirement if they ask customers to fill in the information through collection box or Google form?
Manager of the premises should require customers to scan the ‘LeaveHomeSafe’ venue QR code or register their information through other methods before the person is allowed to enter the premises. The requested information include names, contact numbers and the date and time of the visits. Whilst we do not specify the information collection methods, managers should be responsible for ensuring that customers have filled in the requested information through the methods provided, e.g. by checking the receipt of the form.
How does the Government enforce the direction to ensure compliance of the catering and scheduled premises?
Manager of the premises are required to keep the written or electronic registration records for 31 days. During inspection, enforcement agents may request the person in charge of the premises to provide relevant records as proof, or observe if manger/ staff have observed the direction to require users to scan the venue QR code or register relevant information before entry. Besides, in accordance with section 12(1)(e) of Cap. 599F, enforcement agents may require any person to provide the officer with the assistance or information in the person’s possession (e.g. to request customers to show the login page of the LeaveHomeSafe App) which the officer considers necessary to ensure that the direction has been complied with. Any person who obstruct an authorized officer who is performing a function under the Regulation commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine at level 3.
Is it a must for users of the premises to scan the ‘LeaveHomeSafe’ venue QR code? Is there any consequence if the user does not have a smartphone or refuses to download the App?
Manager of the premises should require customers to scan the ‘LeaveHomeSafe’ venue QR code or register their information through other registration methods. Persons responsible for carrying on catering businesses and managers of scheduled premises that contravene the statutory requirements under Cap. 599F would have committed a criminal offence. Offenders are subject to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months. If users refuse to register the information using any of the above methods, manager may deny entry of that person to ensure compliance with the direction under Cap. 599F.
How to define staff involved in the operation of the premises who are subject to testing requirement?
Generally speaking, staff involved in the operation of the premises including those responsible for the day-to-day operation (such as customer service officers, waiters, chefs, etc.) should observe the regular testing requirement. Depending on the actual circumstances, clerical staff working at back office and those who are not responsible for the premises operation may not be subject the relevant direction.
Regarding the regular testing arrangement, the staff member involved in the operation of the business on the premises will not need to undergo the required testing arrangement starting from the fourteenth day upon his or her completion of a COVID-19 vaccination course. Relevant staff member should keep the vaccination record as proof of vaccination. The fourteenth day upon a person's completion of a vaccination course is counted by taking the next day after the person received all of the recommended dose(s) of vaccine as the first day. For example, for a person who has not been infected with COVID-19 and received the second dose of vaccine on April 15, the "first day" would be April 16 and the "fourteenth day" would be April 29.
What tests for COVID-19 are accepted under the Regulation?
Staff involved in the operation of the premises should undergo a polymerase chain reaction-based nucleic acid test for COVID-19 once every 14 days. The Government does not accept Antigen test and Antibody test results.
Which catering business can be exempted from the “no dine-in” restriction?
Premises set out in Schedule 1 to Cap. 599F and certain catering business designated by the Chief Secretary for Administration in accordance with Section 7A of the Regulation can be exempted from the “no dine-in” restriction. The list of exempted catering business is at Annex. The exempted catering business still need to observe other infection control measures under the direction in relation to catering business when providing dine-in meal. According to section 4(1) of the Regulation, food or drink sold or supplied by a hotel or guesthouse as part of room service is excluded from the restriction.
Is staff canteen exempted from the "no dine-in" restriction? How to define such category?
Having considered the practical need and the exceptional circumstances of the case, the Chief Secretary for Administration has designated “canteens provided in any work place for the use exclusively of the persons employed in the work place and catering businesses during meal break of their employees” as an additional category of catering businesses for exemption from the “no dine-in” restriction. Such category does not include “factory canteen". The catering businesses which use part of their catering premises for employees to have their meals within their work place must designate the area during meal breaks of their employees and appropriate notice or segregation measures should be put in place to ensure that customers and members of the public cannot enter the area for dining inside. Besides, the waiting area for take-away services within the catering premises should be clearly segregated from the staff dining area, so as to avoid the risk of contravening the direction and virus transmission.
If the customer orders at 5:30pm in a Category B catering premises, is it possible for the customer continue eating or drinking in the catering premises after 6pm?
Category B catering business must cease selling or supplying food or drink for consumption on the premises from 6pm to 4.59am and close the premises or the relevant area of the premises providing dine-in catering service. The manager should ensure that customers cease eating or drinking the food or beverages provided by the catering business during the specified time period so as to comply with the directions.
Can a wedding banquet/catering banquet be held?
Under the latest directions of Cap. 599F, persons responsible for carrying on catering businesses must cease selling or supplying food or drink for consumption on the premises of the business during the specified time period. Besides, the number of customers at any catering premises must not exceed 50% of the normal seating capacity of the premises and no more than 2 persons (Category B) / 4 persons (Category A) may be seated together at one table within any catering premises. Besides, the number of people participating in any one banquet in catering premises may not exceed 20 persons. In the case of more than 20 persons in the same banquet event where guests are divided into sub-groups of 20 persons, if guests of different sub-groups and the organizer, or guests among different groups would contact or interact with each other, they should be deemed to be in the same banquet. Wedding banquet/catering banquet at catering premises must observe the above requirements. Otherwise, the person in charge of the catering premises may contravene the Regulation.
What is the definition of swimming pool?
Swimming pool means (i) any artificially constructed pool used for swimming or bathing (other than a pool specifically designed for use for hydrotherapy or other treatment purpose and a bathhouse) to which the public have access (whether on payment or otherwise) or that are operated by any club, institution, association or other organization; and (ii) includes any sidewalk immediately adjacent to the pool, any facility adjoining the pool and any spectator stand of the pool.
What is the definition of sports premises?
According to the amended Cap. 599F, sports premises refers to any premises designed, and for the time being used, for sporting activities. The amendment has come into effect on September 30. Sports premises designated by the Chief Secretary for Administration for exemption according to section 9A is at Annex.
Does the definition of amusement game centre cover Internet Computer Services Centre (also known as “Internet Café”) (網吧) and electronic-sports (“e-sports”) venue (電競場地)?
Depending on the actual mode of business, the operations of Internet cafés and e-sports venues may fall under the meaning of an amusement game centre under section 2(1) of the Amusement Game Centres Ordinance (“the Ordinance”)(Cap. 435). According to the relevant provision, if the use or operation of the machinery or device in the Internet café / e-sports venue are in whole or in part for the purpose of amusement, recreation or entertainment on payment directly or indirectly of any consideration in money or money’s worth, such premises should fall within the definition of amusement game centre under the Ordinance.
What is the definition of beauty parlour?
According to Cap. 599F, beauty parlour means any premises on which one or more of the following types of services are provided:-
chemical, mechanical or energetic procedure for beautifying purpose, including cosmetic procedures that involve skin puncture for non-medical purpose, on any part of the body (excluding hair on the head);
nail treatment services (including manicure or pedicure service, nail extension, nail polish and nail art);
hair loss improvement service (including hair transplant and hair weaving) for non-medical purpose.
Does the definition of massage establishment cover premises that provide clinical massage treatments, or other similar services or treatments (such as establishment for physiotherapy)?
According to the Massage Establishments Ordinance (Cap. 266), massage establishment means any place used or intended to be used or represented as being used for the reception or treatment of persons requiring massage or other similar service or treatment.
Are religious premises required to close?
Religious premises is not one of the scheduled premises that are required to suspend operation under the Regulation (Cap. 599F) and are therefore, allowed to remain open.
Cap. 599G Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation
What is the Regulation (Cap. 599G)?
The Government gazetted the specifications that unless exempted, the prohibition on group gatherings of more than four persons in public places will continue during the 14-day period from April 15, 2021 to April 28, 2021. The requirement is also applicable to group gatherings in catering business and scheduled premises regulated under Cap. 599F in which the relevant requirements or restrictions are not complied with.
The list of exempted group gatherings at Schedule 1 of the Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation (Cap. 599G) is at Annex. The following legislative amendments regarding exempted group gatherings are maintained:
The number of persons allowed in wedding ceremonies at which no food or drink is served is 20;
For shareholders' meeting of a listed company that is held in accordance with any Ordinance or other regulatory instrument that governs the operation of the organisation or its business, subject to no food or drink being served, the number of persons allowed in a room or partitioned area is 20; and
(effective from March 31) Religious gatherings during which no food or drink is served (except food or drink as part of a religious ritual) are allowed.
Are there exemptions under the Regulation (Cap. 599G)?
The scope of existing exempted group gatherings is at Annex.
What are the legal consequences for contravening the Regulation (Cap. 599G)?
The Government has increased the penalties for breaching requirements under the relevant Regulations in order to create the necessary deterrence effect. The relevant legislative amendments took effect from 11 December 2020. Any person who participates in a prohibited group gathering; organises a prohibited group gathering; owns, controls or operates the place of the gathering; and knowingly allows the taking place of the gathering, commits an offence. Offenders are liable to a maximum penalty of a fine $25,000 and imprisonment for six months. Persons who participates in a prohibited group gathering may discharge liability for the offence by paying a fixed penalty of $5,000.
What are public places? Will private properties not be classified as public places?
Public places refer to places where members of the public can get access to from time to time. If private properties allow access by members of the public from time to time, such as cinemas, shops and restaurants, such private properties would fall under the definition of public places and hence the requirements regarding group gatherings in the Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation will also be applicable. If the venue does not fall within the definition of a public place, then a group gathering may not be prohibited under the Regulation. In such case, the organizers should ensure sufficient measures/arrangements on admission/access control to the venues, which could prevent access of members of the public from time to time, so that the venues would not fall within the definition of public place under section 2 of the Regulation.
Will a group of people queuing up for buses, using elevators, crossing the road or waiting for takeaways be defined as group gatherings?
Group gathering generally means a group of people who gather for a common purpose. However, whether a case is defined as a group gathering depends on its nature, such as whether the gathering is organised beforehand, whether there is any interaction between the participants, and whether the gathering only lasts for a very short period of time. Generally speaking, the definition of group gatherings does not apply to the abovementioned examples.
“Group gathering of persons living in the same household” is one of the exemptions. Will a family of any number of persons going to the park or shopping together be exempted?
For people living in the same household, their gatherings are exempted.
Does Cap. 599G apply to group gatherings taking place at catering and scheduled regulated under Cap. 599F?
The scope of Cap. 599G has been extended to prohibit group gatherings at non-public places of scheduled premises regulated under Cap. 599F. Accordingly, for all the group gatherings in premises regulated under Cap. 599F, the participants must comply with the relevant group gathering requirements and restrictions specified under Cap. 599F in order to be exempted under Cap. 599G.
If the group gathering related requirement or restriction under Cap. 599F is breached (e.g. more than 4 persons per table or without effective partitioning), such group gathering at the premises would not be exempted under Cap. 599G. Enforcement agents would consider whether to issue fixed penalty notices or initiate prosecution against those who breach Cap. 599G depending on actual circumstances, such as whether Cap. 599G directions is violated, whether relevant persons had taken reasonable steps to ensure group gathering related requirements and restrictions under Cap. 599F are complied with etc.
“Group gathering at a place of work for the purposes of work” is one of the exempted group gatherings. Is the exemption only applicable to the employees of an organisation working in the office of their organisation?
Generally speaking, “group gathering at a place of work for the purposes of work” refers to employees working at a place of work of their organisation. However, we understand that certain industries might have their special operational needs and judgment will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Will sales and marketing of new properties be exempted?
Members of the public participating in such activities will not be exempted. They must comply with the prohibition of group gatherings of more than 2 people, and there must be a distance of 1.5 metres or more between different groups.
Will groups distributing face masks in public places be exempted?
Generally speaking, group gatherings in public places for activities of purpose which is conducive to the prevention and control of diseases, such as distributing face masks, may be exempted. However, we appeal to members of the public to avoid public gatherings during this critical period to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
Under the prohibition on group gathering, will convening a annual general meeting (AGM) or extraordinary general meeting of shareholders contravene the regulation?
Please refer to C1 and C2.
Are religious activities currently one of the exempted group gatherings?
The Government gazetted the amendments under the Regulation (Cap. 599G) to add the exemption for a group gathering during religious activity
（i） held at any premises constructed or regularly used as a place of worship (including a church, monastery or nunnery, mosque, synagogue or temple);
（ii） in which no food or drink is served (except as part of a religious ritual); and
（iii） in which measures are in place for restricting the number of participants in the activity to not more than 30% of the number of persons that may normally be accommodated on the premises as a place of worship.
Are worshippers participating in religious gatherings required to scan the “LeaveHomeSafe” venue QR code or register their information?
In view of the development of the epidemic, the “Health Advice on Prevention of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for Religious Assembly” earlier published by the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health will be updated as appropriate. That health advice set forth in detail a list of precautionary measures which the religious bodies and worshippers participating in religious gatherings should implement. Listing different precautionary measures in the form of guidelines instead of regulation would allow certain degree of flexibility. Different religions could customise precautionary measures applicable to different religious rituals having regard to past experiences, own circumstances and the nature of the gatherings.
In particular, when holding religious gatherings, operator of the religious premises should require worshippers participating in religious gatherings to scan the ‘LeaveHomeSafe’ venue QR code or register their names, contact numbers and the date and time of their visits before the worshipper is allowed to enter the premises, with written or electronic records to be kept for 31 days.