HONG KONG: Hong Kong authorities on Thursday (Jul 30) backtracked a decision to ban all restaurant dining, noting that it brought “inconvenience and difficulties” to many workers.
From Friday, eateries will be able to resume dine-in services for breakfast and lunch, provided they operate at 50 per cent capacity and ensure diners sit two to a table, with a 1.5m spacing between each table.
Dining-in will only be allowed from 5am to 5.59pm, according to the authorities.
The restaurant dining ban, which was announced on Monday and took effect on Wednesday, had barred any outlet from allowing dine-in patrons, an unprecedented move in the financial hub where hundreds of thousands depend on eating out for daily meals.
The dining-in ban was part of new restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 amid a spike in new cases.
Other restrictions announced on Monday included a ban on gatherings of more than two people and mandatory face masks in all public places.
READ: COVID-19: For kitchen-less Hong Kongers, new ban on restaurant dining is a bitter pill
EATING IN STOREROOMS, TOILETS
Following the ban, construction and office workers were seen across the city trying to find shade as they ate their noodle and rice lunch boxes in temperatures of up to 35 degrees Celsius.
Others opted to eat inside storerooms or even toilets, public broadcaster RTHK said.
Hong Kong authorities have since opened 19 community centres for residents and workers to have their meals.
Ivan Tong, a 24-year-old engineer who was buying his takeaway lunch in the commercial district of Tsim Sha Tsui, said many industries did not have an office where workers could eat and some companies did not allow dining inside, making the restaurant dining ban very tough.
“Although these measures aim to lower the number of confirmed cases, it may be more dangerous as people are outside longer,” Tong said.
READ: Hong Kong is on verge of COVID-19 outbreak that could collapse hospital system, says Carrie Lam
In response to the ban, private businesses as varied as hairdresser salons and bus companies as well as churches provided space for the public to eat in.
One salon, Hair La Forme, posted on Facebook that it would provide water, napkins and air-conditioned toilets for free.
“Every time someone eats a meal it will be fully disinfected,” it said above a photograph showing individual customer booths with leather seats and wide mirrors.
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