Hong Kong eased restrictions on Thursday at restaurants and bars where staff and customers have begun receiving coronavirus vaccinations, part of an effort to help businesses hurt by the pandemic while attempting to boost an anemic inoculation drive.
Under a complex set of new rules, establishments that were ordered closed for much of the past year — including bars, nightclubs and karaoke parlors — will be allowed to reopen until 2 a.m. if staff and customers have had their first shot.
Restaurants where all employees have had at least one shot can stay open for dining until midnight with up to six diners at a table. Those where staff have had both shots and customers have had at least one can stay open until 2 a.m., with up to eight people per table.
Any establishment that wants to take advantage of the measures must use the government’s contact tracing app. Under previous regulations, residents could forgo the app and fill out their details on paper, an option that has been popular among people worried about what data the app collects and how it might be used.
Hong Kong has kept coronavirus outbreaks largely under control, recording just 209 deaths in a population of 7.5 million, but its vaccination effort has languished. As of Thursday, slightly more than 13 percent of people in the Chinese territory had received a dose of the Sinovac or Pfizer vaccine, with 7 percent having received both doses.
Hong Kong is also requiring residents who want to go to Singapore under a new quarantine-free travel bubble to be fully vaccinated. Officials have said that such a requirement is likely to be enforced under any subsequent travel bubbles with other destinations.
In other news around the world:
Nepal imposed a two-week lockdown in the capital, Kathmandu, and several other cities amid a rise in coronavirus cases nationwide, including among climbers at Mount Everest Base Camp. The authorities barred nearly all vehicles from the roads and ordered people to stay indoors except for emergencies. Hospitals are filling up in the small Himalayan nation as large numbers of migrant workers return home from India, site of what is currently the world’s worst outbreak, without being tested for the virus. Nepal reported nearly 5,000 new daily cases on Wednesday, the most since last October, after recording fewer than 100 for most of March.
At first, the vaccine itself was the prize for older people in Russia. But as vaccination rates have slowed in Moscow, the city government this week began a program to encourage turnout with gift certificates. Residents of the capital older than 60 will now receive a certificate for 1,000 rubles, or about $13, redeemable at stores or restaurants. The Russian government has blamed widespread vaccine hesitancy for a slow start to its vaccination campaign. A shortage of vaccine has also slowed the rollout, as Russia is exporting doses despite a still low vaccination rate at home. About 5 percent of Russians are now fully vaccinated compared with 29 percent in the United States.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech are expected to apply for European Union approval of their vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds. They made a similar application to the F.D.A. in the United States earlier this month. Ugur Sahin, the head of BioNTech, expects some children in Europe to be vaccinated as early as June, according to a report by Der Spiegel. According to the Spiegel report, BioNTech aims for E.U.-wide approval for children younger than 12 by September. As of Thursday, 25 percent of Germans had received at least one dose of a vaccine.