UK, Hong Kong ease Covid restrictions as pandemic abates, vaccination gathers pace

Residents in England are expected to start playing football and cricket matches outside; Hong Kong set to allow some low-risk activities to resume starting Thursday, ease travel restrictions

UK, Hong Kong ease Covid restrictions as pandemic abates, vaccination gathers pace


England on Monday further eased its coronavirus contact restrictions to allow for larger outdoor meet-ups and team sports.

As part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown, which was unveiled in February, groups of up to six, or two households, can now meet together outdoors, reports dpa news agency.

Minimal travel, but no holidays, are allowed and outdoor parent and child groups can meet with up to 15 parents. Tennis and basketball courts, outdoor swimming pools, golf courses and sailing clubs can now all reopen.

Residents in England are expected to start playing football and cricket matches outside as the country experiences a wave of warm weather this week. From April 12, non-essential retail, as well as restaurants and pubs, if serving people outdoors, will be allowed to reopen in England.

In Northern Ireland, six people will be able to meet outside from Thursday, while in Scotland its "stay home" message will be lifted on Friday, allowing people to leave their homes for other reasons aside from school, work, health, exercise or food shopping but they should stay near to their homes.

In Wales, the "stay home" message has already been lifted. On Saturday, Prime Minister Johnson said England still on course for "roadmap to freedom", but warned the impact of Europe's third wave of infections on the country.

"Bitter experience" had shown a wave like the one in Europe would hit Britain "three weeks later", he said.

Nearly 30 million people in Britain have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures.

UK, Hong Kong ease Covid restrictions as pandemic abates, vaccination gathers pace

Hong Kong will ease some Covid-19 control measures from leisure facility closures to travel restrictions as new infections have continued to drop and an increasing number of residents have received the vaccine, a top official said on Monday.

As the Easter holiday is coming, the government will allow some low-risk activities to resume starting Thursday, Sophia Chan, Secretary for Food and Health, said at a press conference.

Chan said swimming pools and beaches will be reopened to the public and the capacity cap for theatres and theme parks will be raised from 50 per cent to 75 per cent, reports Xinhua news agency.

But high-risk venues including bars and night clubs will remain closed. Most social distancing measures, including group gathering limits, will be extended for another two weeks till mid-April.

The public health authorities will advise the Executive Council to allow religious activities to be held on the condition of a 30 per cent capacity cap.

The travel ban for Hong Kong residents from the UK will be lifted and the government will arrange flights to take them home in late April, Chan said, adding that those people are required to undergo a three-week quarantine upon their arrival and take three compulsory virus tests.

Restrictions for travellers from other places will also be relaxed. Those from the low-risk places, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, will have their quarantine time reduced from 21 days to two weeks plus seven days of self-monitoring, and be required to take a compulsory virus test on the 19th day after their arrivals.

As to visitors from places considered as medium risk, they can also have the same quarantine plus self-monitoring arrangement given having been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The loosening of restrictions comes amid an abating pandemic. Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection reported only one local infection on Monday, in addition to seven imported cases.

Meanwhile, the inoculation campaign is going on. Some 462,400 vaccine doses have been administered in Hong Kong under a government program starting February 26, with 18,500 people fully vaccinated.

Despite the relaxation of control measures, Chan said residents should continue to follow existing social distancing rules and warned that the pandemic could rebound if the public members drop their guards off during the upcoming holiday.

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