‘Rise in Covid cases expected as restrictions ease’

Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip on Wednesday warned that the number of Covid cases may rise as social distancing rules are further relaxed. He also said the virus’ reproduction number is again above one.

From Thursday, restaurants will be allowed to operate until midnight while businesses including gyms, bars, karaokes and mahjong parlours can reopen.

Speaking on an RTHK programme, Nip – who’s in charge of the city’s vaccination programme – said it’s only natural that new infection clusters will emerge.

Hong Kong reported 328 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday – the highest figure in May so far.

Nip urged people who haven’t received their third coronavirus jab yet to get it as soon as possible to protect themselves, adding that it would also help strengthen the city’s overall immunity and prevent any outbreaks from spreading out of control.

“As social distancing measures are relaxed further, it’s expected Covid outbreaks will emerge at places such as restaurants,” he said.

“The reproduction number of the virus has exceeded one, meaning coronavirus cases might increase. As infection risks rise, it’s important for people to receive three vaccine doses to prevent serious complications and deaths.”

The current requirement for people over the age of 12 to be double-jabbed to enter venues such as restaurants, supermarkets and shopping malls will be raised to three doses from May 31.

Nip added that a high vaccination rate is a must if Hong Kong is to resume quarantine-free travel with the mainland and other places.

Only around half the population have received three vaccines so far, compared to 86 percent who have been double-jabbed.