UPDATE 1-HK eases some COVID-19 restrictions, but cancels China national day fireworks

HONG KONG, Sept 2- Hong Kong said on Wednesday it would relax some coronavirus restrictions but would cancel the annual firework display to mark China’s national day on Oct. 1 for a second year in a row. Although the street protests have lost momentum, anti-government and anti- Beijing sentiment persists, with China’s offer of mass coronavirus testing for Hong…

HONG KONG, Sept 2 (Reuters) – Hong Kong said on Wednesday it

would relax some coronavirus restrictions but would cancel the

annual firework display to mark China’s national day on Oct. 1

for a second year in a row.

Pro-democracy protests made the 2019 celebrations difficult,though they have become fewer and smaller this year due mainlyto limits on group gatherings and the imposition of a nationalsecurity law that punishes actions China views as subversive,secessionist, terrorist or colluding with foreign forces.

Demonstrations on Oct. 1 last year saw the first protestershot with live rounds by the police amid violent confrontations.

“In response to the latest situation of the COVID-19epidemic, the National Day fireworks … will be cancelled,”the government said in a statement on the celebrations, whichusually take place near the picturesque Victoria Harbour.

Although the street protests have lost momentum,anti-government and anti-Beijing sentiment persists, withChina’s offer of mass coronavirus testing for Hong Kongresidents prompting calls for a boycott and public distrust.

Health officials said the mass testing scheme had revealedno new cases on its first day on Tuesday.

GYMS, MASSAGE PARLOURS TO REOPEN

As part of the relaxation of COVID restrictions, gyms,amusement centres and massage parlours in Hong Kong will be ableto reopen on Friday and restaurants can stay open an hour beyondthe current limit of 9 p.m. as new daily infections in the Asianfinancial hub drop into the single digits.

However, a ban on gatherings of more than two people staysin place, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said, adding that whileauthorities in the Chinese-ruled city were relaxing some socialdistancing measures, residents needed to stay vigilant.

“We have yet to see a stable situation,” she told a newsbriefing. “Everyone must maintain a certain degree of socialdistancing.”

Hong Kong schools are to resume face-to-face teaching fromSept. 23, among the easing of measures that have kept 900,000students working at home for more than four months.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong reported eight new cases, taking thetally since late January to 4,831 patients, 92 of whom havedied.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus:open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)

(Reporting by Farah Master and Twinnie Siu; Editing by ClarenceFernandez and Gareth Jones)

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