Sectors want vaccine mandates now so they can reopen

Representatives of six types of businesses forced to close until after the Lunar New Year amid the Omicron outbreaks have urged the government to let them reopen immediately, saying they are willing to serve only vaccinated customers.

At a press conference on Tuesday, operators of trades including beauty salons, massage parlours, bathhouses and mahjong parlours said they wanted the vaccine mandates to come into effect now – more than two weeks earlier than the February 4 start date Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced.

Liberal Party lawmaker Shiu Ka-fai, who’s assisting the trades, said it’s important that the industries can resume operations before the New Year’s holidays.

“Most of the industries in Hong Kong will have a good business at the end of the [lunar] year… So if the government allows those industries to open before the end of this year, like next week, if they are willing to do the vaccine bubble… I think all those industries are happy to do so,” he said.

Venues like bathhouses and mahjong parlours were already subject to the vaccine mandate before they were ordered to shutter amid the recent wave of Covid-19 infections.

Alex Ko, who chairs the Hong Kong and Kowloon Mahjong Shops Association, said authorities should also adjust their anti-epidemic approach, and order only the shops involved in an outbreak to suspend business.

“It’s very unfair if one case happens in one shop, and then you close down the whole industry and say [it is] for the general public’s sake,” he said, adding that the sector had closed down for 270 days during the past two years.

Meanwhile, Yu Ching-tung from the massage parlour trade called for more financial assistance, saying the current subsidy capped at HK$50,000 for smaller shops is not enough to even cover their rent.