Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 30 November 2020


Hong Kong Tightens Gatherings, Sends Civil Servants Home

Updated on 
  • New measures are toughest since those deployed in July
  • Move comes amid resurgence of virus in financial hub

Hong Kong introduced the city’s toughest public-gathering restrictions in months and decided to send civil servants back to work-from-home arrangements as the government steps up efforts to contain the latest wave of coronavirus infections in the Asian financial hub.

Public gatherings will be limited to two people, including at restaurant tables and at sports venues, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a briefing on Monday. Most new measures will go into effect on Wednesday and last two weeks, she said.

The slew of restrictions come as Hong Kong reported 76 new coronavirus patients for the day, with most of them being local transmissions and nine cases being untraceable. The new measures are similar to those announced in July, when the city faced its worst-ever outbreak. The current resurgence has already delayed a planned air travel bubble with Singapore, and the onset of colder weather may mean that the virus’s spread is harder to curb.

New Measures Announced MondayThe number of guests permitted per restaurant table will be halved to 2 and restaurant dine-in hours will be cut off at 10 p.m.Government asks most civil servants to work from home and urges employers to allow work-from-home arrangementsGyms and sports venues will be allowed to stay open but activities will be limited to two people per groupDisneyland and Ocean Park to be closedGovernment is also considering increasing fines for violations of social distancing rules and mandatory mask order

Many multinational companies refer to what civil servants are doing to determine their own guidelines about employees coming to the office. When civil servants were told to work from home during the last wave of Covid-19 cases, government services such as work-visa extensions were delayed. Hong Kong estimates the government employed more than 177,000 people as of June, accounting for about 4.6% of the city’s workforce.

Lam also announced the closure of venues such as mahjong parlors and swimming pools. Restaurants will also have to shorten restaurant dine-in hours to 10 p.m. Amusement parks will also be shut. The maximum penalty for violating social distancing measures will be HK$25,000 ($3,225) and imprisonment.

Hong Kong earlier announced that schools would shut again from Wednesday. The city’s social distancing measures have drawn criticism from businesses for being more unpredictable than places such as New Zealand, South Korea or Singapore.

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