Clouds over Hong Kong parting at last

As the city prepares for a further easing of anti-Covid restrictions, Robert Rogers looks at how organisers can navigate the revised rules on gatherings without falling foul of the law

THERE is a light at the end of the tunnel for Hong Kong, let us hope it is not the train of the 6th wave! As Hong Kong opens up people are desperately seeking connection. They are gathering both secretly and not so secretly. As organisers bring people together they are trying to decipher the current rules and distressing over what they can and cannot do. I have been asked by many friends and clients wanting to organise gatherings what should they do, so here is my understanding of how to have a safe gathering…

Robert Rogers: I am not a lawyer

Please note, I am not a lawyer and the rules are patchy, difficult to understand and sometimes don’t make sense. Here is the detailed breakdown for what is allowed and where until May 18, when a further easing of restrictions is due to be announced.

The Hong Kong SAR Government realises it can’t police every event. To manage the restrictions on events they put the onus onto licensed venues. This makes it very tricky for event managers as different venues have different restrictions and many gatherings are not held in licensed premises.

As of May 5, as part of the easing of restrictions imposed in February to counter the Omicron surge, restaurants can seat eight to a table and host banquets for up to 20. Bars are still closed. No entertainment is allowed unless you are an entertainment venue or an event premises. Public gatherings of more than four people can mean fines for you and everyone who attends.

Restrictions on gatherings in private places have been eased. There is no mention of numbers allowed nor requirements. So what is “private”? According to the government website: “Public places refer to places where members of the public can get access to from time to time.”

It seems the government does not want to tell you what you can and cannot do in your home and, generally, Hong Kong homes are too small to have anything resembling a sizeable event. So if you are inviting more than four people around make sure it is people you know, not strangers. If you are advertising on Instagram or Facebook then that becomes public. If you are charging admission or selling tickets, that is public. If you’re asking friends to chip in to cover the costs of F&B, then that might be considered private. As for sending direct messages to your friends to ask them for dinner  – that’s private too.

More from Robert… An event creator under quarantine

Generally it seems the problems don’t happen at the event, they happen afterwards. Often an asymptomatic person attends only to find out later they have Covid. When they go to the doctor they are referred to the Department of Health which begins contact tracing. They say they were at your party, then the DoH comes to you asking who was there? And if you don’t tell them you’re in big trouble.

If you are at a licensed venue it is the venue’s responsibility. If you are in a private space, it is your job as an organiser to ensure the safety of your guests. This means keeping numbers small, ensuring everyone is vaccinated, using rapid anti-gen tests, keeping detailed lists with times for who arrives and leaves. And of course keeping everything as sanitary as possible.

We look forward to the coming months as Hong Kong returns to normality and we are allowed to dance again. Until then, get your jabs, wear your mask and wash your hands.

Robert Rogers CSEP is principal of Events Man. This is an edited version of an article originally published on Robert’s Events Man blog

Main picture source: Hong Kong Tourism Board

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