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Source: Hong Kong Information Services

The Government will gazette the amendments to the relevant regulations to promulgate measures later to restrict group gatherings and strengthen the infection prevention and control in hotels/guesthouses, the Food & Health Bureau said today.

The move was made in view of the development of the COVID-19 epidemic situation in Hong Kong.

The bureau said since the fourth wave of the outbreak could happen at any moment, the Government has to implement preventive measures in a targeted manner to reduce the infection risk of mask-off gatherings.

It noted there has recently been an increasing trend of staycation activities in hotels/guesthouses and that participants of such gatherings usually did not wear masks, and sometimes there were a considerable number of participants.

Since there was a cluster of COVID-19 cases related to this kind of gathering earlier, the relevant health risks should not be overlooked, the bureau added.

Additionally, as general travellers arriving in Hong Kong from places outside China must be placed under compulsory quarantine in hotels for 14 days, the bureau said it considers it necessary to strengthen the measures to reduce cross infection risks between confinees and local guests.

It said the Government will amend the relevant legislations to restrict gatherings and strengthen infection prevention and control measures in hotels/guesthouses, as well as imposing legal responsibility on the people who organise or

The Prevention & Control of Disease (Requirements & Directions) (Business & Premises) Regulation (Cap 599F) and the Prevention & Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation (Cap 599G) will be amended to incorporate hotels/guesthouses referred under the Hotel & Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance into the list of scheduled premises under Cap 599F.

The legal power under Cap 599F and Cap 599G will be enhanced, which includes expanding the scope of Cap 599G to prohibit group gatherings at non-public places of scheduled premises regulated under Cap 599F, for example, places within clubhouses.

Accordingly, for all the group gatherings in premises regulated under Cap 599F, the participants must comply with the relevant group gathering requirements and restrictions in order to be exempted. Otherwise, a summons can be issued against the participants.

Moreover, the enforcement power of authorised officers under Cap 599F and Cap 599G will be aligned, and a defence will be provided to the manager of the scheduled premises if he has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the group gatherings comply with the requirements.

The relevant legislative amendments will take effect from November 20.

After discussing the details with the hotel/guesthouse industry, the Government will separately gazette the directions under Cap 599F to set out the details and the effective date of the measures restricting group gatherings and strengthening infection prevention and control in hotels/guesthouses.

The bureau said compared with the current practice where the hotel/guesthouse operators could only appeal for the self-discipline of customers, the legislative amendment exercise will facilitate the operators to manage infection prevention and control within the premises more effectively.

Furthermore, the Department of Health has tightened the requirement to disallow visitors for any person under compulsory quarantine in hotels during the quarantine period starting from today.

If confinees have the need to replenish goods or food, their friends, family members or hotel staff can place them outside the guestrooms for the confinees to pick up without face-to-face contact.

If a person under compulsory hotel quarantine requires the company of a carer, with the prior permission from the department, the carer also has to be quarantined in the hotel till the end of the quarantine period.

Breaking quarantine orders, including leaving quarantine places without permission or allowing visitors to enter quarantine guestrooms, is a criminal offence and offenders are subject to a maximum imprisonment of six months and a fine of $25,000.

MIL OSI Asia Pacific News