The Hong Kong Government has announced a two-week closure of all bars and pubs in Hong Kong starting from 6pm on 3 April, after reports that over 52% of recent confirmed Covid-19 cases have been linked to the on-trade.
To close or not to close, this is the question that has frustrated restauranteurs and bar owners in Hong Kong for the last two weeks.
First, it was the suspension of liquor licenses, followed by the withdrawal of that decision and new prevention measures; today (2 April), the Hong Kong Government has finally arrived at the decision to shut all local bars and pubs for 14 days effective tomorrow (3 April).
The current ban covers bars, pubs, and any part of a catering business premise or club-house that is mainly used for the sale or supply of alcohol. Operators who violate the regulation are subject to a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and imprisonment for six months.
A spokesperson for the Food and Health Bureau said it had come to the decision as 52% of recent confirmed cases were found to have their origins in bar areas. There is a major cluster of over 55 infections from a bar named Insomnia in Lan Kwai Fong, where it is thought it was initiated by a music band who had performed there which eventually spread out to servers and customers. By launching the ban, it is hoped that the further enhancement of social distancing can help to contain the re-spread of the virus.
Workers in the on-trade have said that he ever-changing official announcements have been hard to follow and given with so little warning that they have not been able to adequately prepare.
Last Friday (27 March), Hong Kong officials required restaurants and bars to comply with certain conditions, including halving capacity and keeping tables at least 1.5 metres apart, in order to stay open. On the same day, they have shut six types of leisure venues for 14 days, including cinemas, gyms and party rooms. On Wednesday (1 April), mahjong parlours, karaoke lounges and nightclubs were added to the list.