Hong Kong to further ease COVID curbs

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Hong Kong will further ease COVID-19 restrictions, allowing bars to open until 2am and doubling the number of diners permitted at a table, as cases in the global financial hub continue to ease.

Beaches and swimming pools will reopen from Thursday, when restaurants can cater to upto eight people at each table, Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam said at a regular news briefing on Tuesday.

The extended hours for bars, as well as the reopening of karaoke rooms and some other venues, will take effect from May 19.

Hong Kong health authorities reported 283 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the first time the daily tally has dropped below 300 in nearly three months.

The city has recorded more than 1.2 million infections and in excess of 9300 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

"The COVID number has dropped to three digits in mid-April and didn't rebound, despite foot traffic increasing during two holidays," Lam said.

Coronavirus restrictions have battered business in Hong Kong and helped fuel a net outflow of around 70,000 people in February and March, up from nearly 17,000 in December.

For some, the easing of restrictions may be too late as many businesses in the food and beverage industry have had to lay off staff as they struggle to pay rent in one of the world's most expensive property markets.

Life in the Chinese-ruled city is gradually returning to normal, with schools resuming face-to-face classes and many people back working from offices.

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