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Hong Kong plans to reopen restaurants, ease social distancing restrictions

Hong Kong plans to reopen restaurants, ease social distancing restrictions
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Officials in Hong Kong announced Wednesday that they are planning to relax some social distancing guidelines as the territory's rate of COVID-19 cases drops, with the aim of returning life back to normal after the Lunar New Year holiday.

Bloomberg reported that Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan announced the reopening of theme parks, beauty salons, movie theaters and other businesses, which were closed in response to lockdown measures implemented by the government in early December. The reopening date is set for Feb. 18, assuming the rate of new cases does not spike before then.

“We are cautiously positive on the epidemic,” Chan said. “If Hong Kong residents continue to observe social-distancing rules, following this trend, we hope we can resume normal life after Lunar New Year.”

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Dining areas were already open and will be allowed to increase their table capacity from two to four guests once the changes go into effect.

December's restrictions were the first real lockdown measures that Hong Kong officials have implemented, and the territory is experiencing a few dozen new cases per day. In January, the government tightened some restrictions, including cordoning off one area of the city until all of the restricted area's 10,000 residents tested negative for COVID-19.

"The Government hopes this temporary inconvenience will completely cut the local transmission chains and ease residents' worries and fear, so that they will regain confidence in resuming social and business activities in the area, and return to a normal life," officials said when tightening the measures last month.

The Chinese-controlled territory was consumed by months of protests last year as pro-U.S. and pro-democracy protesters clashed with police over a new national security law allowing residents to be tried for crimes in mainland China.