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  1. Nightlife tycoon Allan Zeman on Thursday welcomed the reopening of venues such as bars in the latest round of easing of social distancing measures, but cautioned that the industry was facing a shortage of personnel after months of closures. Speaking on RTHK's Hong Kong Today programme, Zeman said allowing bars to reopen made it a happy day for the SAR. Zeman, who heads the Lan Kwai Fong Group, said restaurants had reported an increase in bookings as they are now allowed to open until midnight. "Bars have been closed since January. It's a long time," he told RTHK's Janice Wong. "So, obviously people could not wait for their jobs to come back and so they've left the industry. It's not easy to attract new staff. It'll just take a few months at least to work through the system." As well as bars, Thursday sees karaoke venues and mahjong parlours allowed to reopen. They'll have to close at 2am. The easing will also see people allowed to removed their masks when taking part in exercise indoors in gyms that meet specific ventilation requirements. However gym operators have said that few venues will be able to make the required changes. Officials have cautioned that the easing of restrictions may lead to an increase in Covid cases. They've urged people to get a third vaccine dose, which will be required to enter many venues under the vaccine pass system from May 31.
  2. The government on Wednesday issued compulsory testing notices for 40 places across Hong Kong. Anyone who has visited any of these premises and stayed there for the length of time and on the dates specified must get a nucleic acid test for Covid-19. The buildings are located in Fanling, Chai Wan, Kwun Tong, Kowloon Tong, Quarry Bay, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, Sha Tin, Ngau Chi Wan, Tin Shui Wai, Ma On Shan, Tseung Kwan O, Shek Kip Mei, Ngau Tau Kok, Wong Tai Sin, Hung Hom, Lai Chi Kok, To Kwa Wan, Kowloon City, Sau Mau Ping, Aberdeen, Ap Lei Chau, Sheung Shui, and Tai Wai. The Centre for Health Protection reported 329 new Covid infections on Wednesday. ______________________________ Full list of premises under testing orders: https://www.chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/ctn_20220518.pdf
  3. The government on Wednesday sealed off West Terrace at Sai Wan Estate for overnight coronavirus testing. The Kennedy Town residential block had already been under lockdown last week as part of the restriction-testing declaration exercise that covered the entire estate. Health authorities said they've found 23 infections from West Terrace, including a staff member of Sky Cuisine restaurant in Sheung Wan which has emerged as a coronavirus cluster. "Having reviewed a basket of factors, including the viral load in sewage, the information of relevant positive cases, and other circumstantial factors, and conducted a risk assessment, the government decided to make another 'restriction-testing declaration' for West Terrace of Sai Wan Estate following last week's exercise," a statement says. Residents there are required to get tested for Covid, with the operation expected to end at 10am on Thursday. Authorities have cordoned off two other residential buildings for Covid screening. They are King Tai House at On Tai Estate in Kwun Tong and Ka Yiu House at Ka Shing Court in Fanling. Earlier, officials found three positive and two undetermined cases after testing around 1,000 residents of Ping Wah House at Lok Wah North Estate in Kwun Tong.
  4. Health authorities said on Wednesday that six more people who visited a private kitchen in Kwun Tong have now been infected with Covid, raising the total to 26. That accounted for more than half of the 45 visitors and four staff who were at the premises in Shing Yip Industrial Building on May 9. "We now know that there were people who went to the venue and attended gatherings. There were chats, there was eating, and they were taking off their masks," Albert Au from the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) told a daily Covid briefing. "Whether we will take further action, that depends on whether we have the evidence to prove that there are certain parties which have provided misrepresentation to authorised persons. If so, we will seriously follow up and we will refer the case to the law enforcement department." Meanwhile, six more people linked to the Sky Cuisine restaurant in Sheung Wan have been confirmed to have Covid-19, bringing the total number of infections to 70. Au said genome sequences of cases found in the cluster and nearby Sai Wan Estate were "almost identical", adding that health officials could not rule out the possibility that the outbreak at the eatery had stemmed from a staff member who lives in the estate and might have caught the virus there. Three additional customers of TamJai Yunnan Mixian in Tung Chung have come down with the virus, while a Hung Hom snooker club cluster saw one more case. In total, Hong Kong reported 329 new Covid infections, including 31 imported cases, and four more Covid-related deaths. The controller of the CHP, Edwin Tsui, said infection numbers will likely fluctuate following the relaxation of social distancing measures. He called on people not to be too fixated on the daily caseload, adding that authorities are assessing the coronavirus situation according to a basket of indices.
  5. The authorities are expected to launch a new trial for countdown timers at pedestrian crossing lights next year. The timers, which involve the use of artificial intelligence, will inform people of changes of traffic lights in advance, helping them decide if they have enough time to cross the road. In a written reply to an inquiry in Legco, transport chief Frank Chan said the system is being designed and components are being procured, and trials will be conducted at suitable crossings. He said the countdown will start to display when the "green man" light is on, rather than when it started flashing, as in previous trials in 2006 and 2018. He also said results of those trials showed that more pedestrians were still crossing the road when the "green man" light ended, so the devices did not improve safety. Chan added that pedestrian sensors will be integrated in the timers' operation.
  6. Secretary for Security Chris Tang said the government will make reference to security legislation in other jurisdictions, such as the National Security Bill in the UK, as it comes up with Basic Law Article 23 national security legislation. Writing on his official blog, Tang said the security bill proposed by the British government underlines risks arising from, among other things, espionage and foreign interference, as well as the need to "legislate to get ahead of this threat". Tang also pointed out that under the UK security bill, police would have expanded investigative powers and suspects could be detained for up to 14 days without charge. "Western countries have all along been deliberately slandering and making false accusations against the national security law, as well as demonising the enactment of Article 23 under the Basic Law. But in fact, they have formulated their own national security laws and made legal amendments periodically," he wrote. Tang called on all sectors, especially foreign politicians, to look at the Hong Kong proposals in "an objective and rational manner". He said people should not make "wilful attacks" based on double standards, or attempt to interfere or sabotage the legislative work, while ignoring the fact that national security laws in western countries are wide-ranging. The security chief added that Hong Kong will study national, local as well as foreign laws as it works towards implementing Article 23 legislation.
  7. The University of Science and Technology is poised to appoint neuroscientist Nancy Ip to succeed Wei Shyy as president. Shyy resigned last year, and will step down in October – almost a year before his five-year term is due to end. In an email to its staff and students, the university's council said a selection committee has recommended that Ip takes over. Ip will be the university's first female president if the council endorses the recommendation. Since joining the university, Ip has served as the Vice-President for Research and Development, the Dean of Science, Director of the Biotechnology Research Institute, and Head of the Department of Biochemistry. Her major research interests are in neural development and function, as well as drug discovery for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
  8. Lawmakers on Wednesday questioned the government's handling of waste styrofoam boxes which have been spotted around town in recent months. Heaps of styrofoam boxes carrying vegetables and fruits from the mainland to Hong Kong were discarded as mainland authorities refused to take them back for reuse, citing the Covid situation. Officials said around 120,000 boxes arrived here every day, with a total weight of 48 tonnes. "The 'siege' of waste styrofoam boxes has become a disaster for the environment... a mere styrofoam box shows how [the authorities] aren't taking action in terms of environmental protection policy," said Gary Chan of the DAB at the weekly Legco meeting. In response, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the SAR is actively communicating with mainland authorities to see if the boxes can be disinfected and sent back across the border to be reused. Wong also said the Environmental Protection Department has been supporting more local styrofoam recycling projects financially. "In the past, the weight of the styrofoam [boxes] recycled was less than one tonne per day.... But hard work between us and the sector has seen it increased to around seven tonnes a day," he said. "Please understand there's a limit, because hopefully [the waste of] styrofoam is only temporary... If we invest in [the recycling business] and the supply of styrofoam vanishes, the machines will become useless. So we need to strike a balance." Wong said authorities have stepped up efforts to remove styrofoam boxes lying around, while reusable plastic boxes are provided in wholesale markets on a trial basis to help reduce waste at source.
  9. Civil servants are on track to receive a pay rise of up to 7.26 percent after a two-year freeze on their salaries. The latest pay trend survey released on Wednesday recommended salary increases of 2.04 percent for junior civil servants, 4.55 percent for middle-ranking workers and 7.26 percent for senior staff – after deducting the costs on increments. Lee Luen-fai, chairman of the government-appointed Pay Trend Committee, said the proposals took into account the changes in salaries of nearly 130,000 employees in some 110 companies in the past year. He believes the figures accurately reflect the situation in the job market, noting the economy had grown by around six percent last year. "We just reflect the market," said Lee. "To me it's correct and accurate figures. We accept that." Lee also pointed out that the majority of the companies it surveyed had decided on their own pay adjustments before February and private companies may have spent more on bonuses to retain senior managers, and this, in turn, had contributed to the higher pay rise suggested for senior government officers. He said the committee would discuss the figures with civil service unions before submitting them to the government for consideration next week. The Civil Service Bureau said it had received the tentative findings and that the Executive Council will consider a range of factors before deciding the final pay awards. A spokesman said these include the state of Hong Kong's economy, the government's fiscal position, changes in the cost of living and civil service morale. The government has frozen the salaries of the 180,000-strong civil service in the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic. The president of the Chinese Civil Servants' Association, Li Kwai-yin, said the latest survey results aren't very useful as a reference, saying the economy has been distorted by the pandemic and the poll didn't include companies that were badly affected by the Covid outbreaks. She said the pay freeze in the past two years had affected morale and public servants were under a lot of pressure as they were the "backbone" of anti-epidemic work. Li added that the association will make a counter-proposal that focuses on catching up with inflation. “Catching up the inflation rate, actually it brings no actual increase to salary, it’s just to maintain the purchasing power and also to avoid the salary from being eroded by the ever-rising inflation rate. So hopefully, by focusing on this factor we hope that the public can accept it." The chairman of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, Leung Chau-ting, meanwhile, said he was pleasantly surprised by the results as he had expected a wage deduction. He called on the government to accept the recommendations in the current form in order to retail talents and boost morale. ______________________________ Last updated: 2022-05-18 HKT 18:59
  10. The Asian Para Games scheduled to take place in Hangzhou between October 9 and 15 have been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Organisers said a new schedule will be announced in the near future. The announcement follows the postponement of the Asian Games to 2023 earlier this month. In a statement, Jim Luk, Chef De Mission of the Hong Kong Delegation to the Asian Para Games, said he understood the decision. He said he hoped that all stakeholders and athletes could work together to adjust their physical and mental states to make the best preparations. The Hong Kong Paralympic Committee says it will closely communicate with all stakeholders, including athletes, coaches, and sports associations in the mean time.

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