Hong Kong restaurant and bar owners have reacted with anger and disappointment to the government’s demands to relax the coronavirus restrictions placed on their businesses.
New conditions announced by the general manager Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor Monday means restaurants and bars need to make sure all staff have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while all customers will need to use the government contact tracing app.
Some business owners said authorities put them between a rock and a hard place because they couldn’t force employees to get vaccinated and didn’t want to offend customers by turning them down because they didn’t. the “Leave Home Safe” application on their phone. .
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“As an employer, I feel like I’m being put in a very difficult situation. The government seems to be offering ways to alleviate our plight. But in fact, the new conditions are difficult to implement and leave us no choice, ”said Ray Chui Man-wai, president of the industry body Institute of Dining Art.
Many restaurant bosses, including Chui, said they had not decided whether or not to accept the measures as they needed to discuss it further with partners and staff. Those who do not meet the new conditions can continue to operate under the existing rules, which limit the maximum number of people per table to four, ban catering services after 10 p.m., and allow customers to simply write down their contact details rather than having to send them back. ‘use the government. application.
Restaurateur Simon Wong Kit-lung, who runs 39 restaurants employing 700 people as part of the LH Group, announced on Facebook Monday evening that his restaurants would stick to the existing operating model because they could not force employees to do so. vaccinate.
“We really can’t force people to take jabs. It’s up to them to decide if they’re ready to do it, ”he said. “Being able to extend opening hours and serve six people per table is certainly a very attractive offer. But at this time, we can still afford to forgo this offer. We just have to work harder.
Lam set out a three-step roadmap to ease trade restrictions on restaurants and bars, as part of the government’s attempt to get more people to get vaccinated. The new measures are expected to enter into force on April 29 at the earliest and will be implemented in stages.
For restaurants, the first stage will allow tables of six people, instead of four, who will be free to stay until midnight, rather than having to leave at 10 p.m. But all of these diners must record their visit using the app, and staff must have received at least one dose of vaccine.
Restaurants serving these groups will still be subject to restrictions limiting them to operating at less than half of their original capacity, with no more than 20 diners allowed at a banquet.
The next step requires that all restaurant employees be fully immunized and that customers have received at least one dose. Diners will be allowed to eat in groups of eight and banquets to serve 100 people, with restaurant opening hours extended until 2 a.m.
In the third phase, up to 12 people will be able to sit together at a table, but only if all employees and customers have been fully immunized.
Restaurants will need to designate specific clean areas for customers who have had at least one Covid-19 jab.
Bars and pubs will also be allowed to reopen in phases, provided that each staff member and customer has received a first dose of coronavirus vaccine, and all customers use the Leave Home Safe app. These limitations can be relaxed if all staff and clients are fully immunized.
Chui, also chairman of Kam Kee Holdings, which owns around 36 restaurants and employs more than 800 people, said he could not force his staff to be beaten, adding that so far only 10% of they had received the blows.
“Some staff may be reluctant to receive the vaccine due to health concerns,” he said. “If some of them refuse to be vaccinated, I cannot fire them because it is discriminatory.
“For the guests, a lot of elderly people or children do not have a smartphone, should I refuse them simply because they cannot install the government application? Also, many people resist using the app. I don’t want to offend my clients and force them.
Chui was also concerned that he would be held responsible for an employee who received a blow because he felt it had to be done, and then fell ill. “Will I be held responsible? he said.
Simon Wong, LH Group, said, “Some of our staff have chronic illnesses, while others are pregnant or have allergies. There must also be employees who do not want to.
The heart of the matter is that Hong Kong people do not trust the government
The boss of the Thai restaurant Sae Ngow Vasunt
Thai restaurant boss Sae Ngow Vasunt, who runs six outlets employing around 70 employees, called the plan very intrusive and said the government had unfairly shifted responsibility for vaccinating people to the restaurant business. .
“The heart of the matter is that Hong Kong people do not trust the government,” he said. “They feel offended by the measures that force them to use the government app and get vaccinated so they can dine there. It looks like a threat to the population.”
Sae called on the government to rethink the feasibility of the plan and said he “should give serious thought to whether this plan is feasible and can facilitate economic recovery.”
Ben Leung Lap-yan, founding president of the Licensed Bar and Club Association of Hong Kong, said he was “offended and disappointed” by the move, adding that the bar industry has yet to work out details with the government.
“The government should use its own means to encourage people to get vaccinated,” he said. “His vaccination campaign should not be linked to the relaxation of trade restrictions on bars.”
However, Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Allied Crafts, said the new ruling could encourage people to get vaccinated and supported the requirement to make the research application of contacts for the guests.
“I am advocating that the government oblige diners to use the app in a mandatory way instead of allowing them to fill out a form with their contact details, as many people have provided inaccurate information,” he said.
But housewife Ashley Chan described the new measures as ridiculous, intrusive and crass, wondering why the government was forcing people to use its app and get vaccinated.
“Why can’t I leave my information in writing?” Why do I have to question my honesty? She asked, noting that she was still “concerned about the safety of the vaccines and the safety of the application.”
Overall, Hong Kong’s vaccination rate remains low. As of Monday, around 877,900 doses of vaccine had been administered to the public. Only 8 percent of the city’s 7.5 million people received a first dose, while only 3.7 percent were fully immunized.
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