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 requirements and restrictions applicable to catering business and scheduled premises (see Annex 1 for details) will largely be maintained during the seven-day period from October 23 to 29. Amongst others, activities and facilities involving higher health risks such as dancing activities, steam and sauna facilities and ball pits will continue to be suspended or prohibited from opening. To provide more opportunities for the general public to exercise to maintain physical and mental health so that the public will be fit to continue to combat the epidemic, the latest directions will allow team sports at swimming pools with the maximum number of persons allowed at more than four persons based on the particular team sports activities.
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.
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 2. 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.
Can karaoke establishments with restaurant or club license continue to allow customers to sing, eat or drink after 0.00am?
Karaoke establishments (whether they are holding restaurant or club licenses) must cease selling or supplying drinks or food for consumption on the premises from 0.00am to 4.59am and the area providing dine-in catering service must be closed. In other words, customers are not allowed to eat or drink the food or beverages provided by the karaoke establishment in the karaoke room.
If a customer of karaoke establishment holding restaurant or club license brings their own drinks or food to the premises, can the customer continue consumption in the karaoke establishment after 0.00am?
The described circumstances may not result in contravention of the latest directions by the manager of the premises. However, customers should take into consideration their own health as well as public health implication. Members of the public and managers should not gather for a long period of time nor engage in activities that involve not wearing masks (such as eating and drinking). The Government strongly advises customers not to bring their own drinks or food for consumption at karaoke establishments during the specified time.
If the customer orders at 11:30pm in a bar, is it possible for the customer continue eating or drinking in the bar after 0.00am?
Bars (regardless they are holding restaurant or club licenses) must cease selling or supplying food or drink for consumption on the premises from 0.00am 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 bar during the specified time period so as to comply with the directions.
Can a wedding ceremony/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 4 persons may be seated together at one table within any catering premises. Wedding banquet/catering banquet at catering premises must observe the above requirements.
Please also refer to C1 and C2.
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)?
After taking into account the latest public health risk assessment and having struck a balance with economic needs and level of acceptance of the society, the Government amends the Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation (Cap. 599G) to expand the scope of the existing exempted group gatherings to cover local tours and relax the restrictions on the number of persons allowed at wedding ceremonies and meetings that are held in accordance with any Ordinance or other regulatory instrument that governs the operation of the company or its business. The amendments will come into effect on October 23. Details are as follows:
Taking into account the public’s wish to resume social activities and to allow the travel industry, which has been hard hit by the epidemic, to develop local businesses, the Government amends Cap. 599G to expand the scope of exempted group gatherings (at Annex 3) to allow licensed travel agents to organise local tours involving not more than 30 people. Travel agents must register with the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong for each tour in advance and undertake to strictly implement a series of anti-epidemic measures, including wearing of masks by participants all the time except when having a meal, restricting the maximum number of persons on a conveyance to 50 per cent of its seat capacity, etc.;
The maximum number of persons at wedding ceremonies, at which no food or drink is served, will increase from 20 to 50.
The maximum number of persons in a room or partitioned area at a meeting that is held in accordance with any Ordinance or other regulatory instrument that governs the operation of the organisation or its business (including shareholders’ meeting of listed company), at which no food or drink is served, will increase from 20 to 50.
Unless exempted, the prohibition on group gatherings of more than four persons in public places will continue during the seven-day period from October 23 to 29.
Are there exemptions under the Regulation (Cap. 599G)?
The scope of existing exempted group gatherings is at Annex 3.
What are the legal consequences for contravening the Regulation (Cap. 599G)?
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 $2,000.
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. On the contrary, if the organizers have ensured sufficient measures/arrangements on admission/access control to the venues, which could prevent access of members of the public from time to time, such venues may not be regarded as public places.
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?
To enhance the enforcement effectiveness of the directions issued under Cap. 599F, the Government has amended Cap. 599G to effect that exemption under Cap. 599G would only be applicable to group gatherings at premises regulated under Cap. 599F if the requirements and restrictions in relation to group gatherings (such as those in relation to the number of person allowed per group/facility and the distancing/partitioning between groups) set out in the Cap. 599F directions are complied with.
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 4 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.
When can religious groups resume their religious activities?
According to the amended Cap. 599G, religious gatherings held at any premises constructed or regularly used as a place of worship (including a church, monastery or nunnery, mosque, synagogue or temple) will be exempted from prohibition of group gathering starting from 2 October, on the conditions that measures must be in place for restricting the number of participants in the activity to not more than 50% of the number of persons that may normally be accommodated on the premises and no food or drink is served (except food or drink as part of a religious ritual).