Hong Kong civil servants to return to work as lockdown eases

Credit: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday most civil servants will gradually return to work from May 4, although the government had not yet decided whether to ease travel and social distancing restrictions that are due to expire next week.

Adds details, quotes on plans

HONG KONG, April 28 (Reuters) - Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday most civil servants will gradually return to work from May 4, although the government had not yet decided whether to ease travel and social distancing restrictions that are due to expire next week.

The global financial hub reported no new coronavirus infections for a second day on Monday, bringing some relief to a city whose economy has been battered by the disease that came on the heels of crippling anti-government protests.

Looking to ease the way out of a lockdown, Lam said outdoor sports facilities, libraries and museums would also reopen from Monday although they would still be subject to a ban on gatherings of more than four people.

Social distancing restrictions to halt the spread of coronavirus have seen a relative lull in protests in recent weeks, with some democracy activists expressing concern the rules could be used to curb demonstrations, which Lam rejected.

"When considering whether to continue the restrictions or not, the major consideration is firstly to safeguard public health and to ensure citizens' health, secondly to consider the impact of these measures on the economy and different industries, and thirdly their psychological impact on people," Lam said.

The government said last week that social distancing and travel measures would be extended until at least May 7. A key consideration for Lam will also be whether to ease cross-border travel restrictions with mainland China, where the virus is believed to have originated and is now largely under control.

Joining cities around the world in the battle to halt the virus, Hong Kong has shut schools and many people work from home, although some have slowly started to return to offices in the past couple of weeks. It's rare to see anyone not wearing a surgical mask in the city.

Hong Kong has confirmed 1,038 cases and four deaths since the outbreak began in January.

(Reporting By Clare Jim and Donny Kwok; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Lincoln Feast.)

((annemarie.roantree@thomsonreuters.com; +852 97387151; Reuters Messaging: annemarie.roantree.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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