Groups of four to be allowed in public starting Friday

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Hong Kong officials announced further relaxations to social distancing measures Tuesday—including an increase in the limits to public gatherings and the reopening of some venues.

Prof. Sophia Chan, Secretary for Food and Health, told reporters Tuesday that the Chief Executive in Council approved groups of four to sit together in dining establishments and gather in public by Friday.

Establishments like gaming arcades and mahjong areas will also be reopened.

The new measures will take effect starting midnight of Sept. 11, and would last until Sept. 17.

Chan said while other establishments karaoke establishments, bars, and swimming pools are still closed, they will be considering opening these in the next round of easing measures should the situation get better.

Hong Kong rolled out a universal community testing program to help identify silent transmissions of the virus. Chan said that of the 1.235 million people who have booked tests, 16 have tested positive—two of which are foreign domestic workers.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau, who was also at the conference, said the city is gearing to resume operations for theme parks Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park.

Yau said if the coronavirus situation becomes more manageable, the theme parks will reopen—provided they follow social distancing measures enforced throughout the city.

Hong Kong is also attempting to jumpstart travel bubble arrangements with 11 countries including Japan, Thailand, and other European Union countries such as Germany and Switzerland.

The government began relaxing social distancing measures on Aug. 28, as Hong Kong saw a decline in the number of confirmed coronavirus infections daily. It relaxed measures again on Sept. 4, three days after residents began taking part in the city’s mass testing program.

The two-person limit to public gatherings was put into effect since July when the city saw a surge of COVID-19 infections.