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Hong Kong to ease COVID-19 restrictions as daily cases fall

Hong Kong to ease COVID-19 restrictions as daily cases fall

FILE PHOTO: Health workers prepare at the locked-down part of the Yau Ma Tei residential area to contain a new outbreak of COVID-19 in Hong Kong on Jan 26, 2021. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong will ease strict coronavirus restrictions from Feb 18, reopening sports and entertainment facilities and extending dining hours, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Wednesday (Feb 10), as the city logged a steady decline in daily cases.

Chan said catering businesses would be able to operate until 10pm, granting them an additional four hours. Beauty salons, theme parks, cinemas and all sports facilities would be allowed to resume with conditions in place.

"We are cautiously optimistic on the pandemic," Chan told a news conference, adding that she hoped the city could quickly get back on its feet.

New cases have fallen to fewer than 30 a day from more than 80 at the end of January.

READ: Hong Kong leader defends 'ambush lockdown' tactics

Separately, a government advisory panel for COVID-19 vaccines said on Wednesday that China's Sinovac vaccine was safe and effective, bringing it a step closer to getting the greenlight in the Asian financial hub.

The panel said it was awaiting further information from Sinovac and would thereafter make a recommendation to the government, which has the final decision on whether to approve the vaccine.

Hong Kong's government last week said it was exempting Chinese drug maker Sinovac from publishing results of its third phase clinical trials in medical journals due to the "urgency" of the need for vaccines.

The Fosun Pharma-BioNTech vaccine – the first vaccine approved in Hong Kong- was required to have published their results in a medical journal before being examined by the advisory panel.

The first batch of one million Fosun Pharma-BioNTech doses is expected to arrive in the second half of February.

READ: Hong Kong extends face-to-face school closures until mid-February due to COVID-19 spread

Hong Kong's vaccination program has lagged other developed cities and China which started its vaccine program in July last year. Hong Kong has a separate approval process from China.

A University of Hong Kong survey found that fewer than 30 per cent of people would accept the Sinovac vaccine.

Hong Kong has secured a total of 22.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Fosun Pharma-BioNTech, Sinovac and Oxford-AstraZeneca.

The city of 7.5 million people has recorded around 10,700 infections and 188 deaths since January last year.

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Source: Reuters/lk

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