The government on Thursday ordered all bars and pubs to close down for two weeks, in the latest of a series of mandatory closures targeting entertainment venues in a broadening effort to stem the Covid-19 outbreak.
An order published in the government gazette says the ban starts at 6pm on Friday.
“Any premises that is exclusively or mainly used for the sale or supply of intoxicating liquors… for consumption in that premises must be closed”, it said.
Even sections of restaurants or club-houses that mainly serve alcohol must be closed down.
The government said in a statement that so far, there have been 62 confirmed Covid-19 cases here that have been linked to local bars, leading to 14 further infections -- including that of a 40-day-old baby boy.
Violators face six months in prison and a maximum fine of HK$50,000.
The latest order comes less than a week after bars and pubs, along with all restaurants across the territory, were ordered to impose new restrictions, including limiting the number of customers inside to half the maximum capacity, and providing hand sanitiser to patrons.
And just a day before, the government had extended a 14-day ban on three more types of businesses, namely karaoke lounges, night clubs and mahjong parlours, on top of an earlier closure of six other types of premises including cinemas, game arcades and ice rinks.
However, a full shutdown of bars has been vigorously opposed by the trade.
Many complained that business was already tanking, and a full shutdown would sound the death-knell for many smaller businesses.
At a press conference on Thursday evening the health secretary said the government had taken the decision in light of evidence showing that some cases were a result of secondary and tertiary transmission.
The chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group, Allan Zeman, told RTHK he hoped the government would help pay the salaries of bar workers.
Zeman said he understands why the government needs to shut bars down at this time, as several recent Covid-19 cases have been found to be linked to bars.
But he says the forced closures will only do further damage to an already hard-hit industry and some form of compensation is needed to help the bars survive.
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