Complex rules burst bubble for some on reopening day

Hong Kong’s bars, karaokes and other entertainment venues are now free to open up again after months of closure, and restaurants can extend their services, but some businesses say they’ll have to remain shut as they work out how to comply with the various conditions the government has imposed.

With a dizzying array of different scenarios, based on vaccinations, tests, app usage and more, even health inspectors say they’re not yet confident about enforcing rules on who can open until when, and how many customers can get together and where.

Speaking on an RTHK radio show, Leonard Lam from the Party Room Association said the industry is happy to be allowed to resume operations, after a shutdown that has lasted several months.

But he’s worried that entertainment venues will struggle to follow the requirement that all staff and customers have had Covid vaccinations.

“Many youngsters don’t want to take the vaccine. Over 70 percent of our customers are young people. When you require all four people in a group to be vaccinated, we really lose a lot of customers,” Lam said.

“Many of our staff work on a part-time basis, and most are young people. They won’t just go take the vaccine for this job … Many say if vaccination is required, then I won’t work here.”

Lam said his business had received many enquiries after the announcement of the “vaccine bubble”, but no one had made any bookings yet.

He also said it is unfair that vaccines are required for their customers, but not for those going to mahjong parlours.

Speaking on the same show, Timothy Chui from the Tourism Association said local tours could not resume on Thursday, as the registration documents required had only just been made available by the authorities.

He said the first tour from his own travel agency would only start the weekend after next, because they need time to find guides – as well as some customers.

While vaccinations are required for staff, Chui estimated that only around one-third of industry workers have been inoculated, with some older tour guides and coach drivers hesitant to get a jab.

Even frontline enforcers need time to get their heads around the various new rules, according to Bibiana Yuen, who heads the Frontline Health Inspector Union.

“The plan is not something as simple as one, two, three, four, so we need time to digest the information. We hope the public can understand our frontline colleagues. We got the information at almost the same time as everyone else,” she said.