Hong Kong gyms and cinemas reopen as virus measures ease

Club members queue outside a gym, which must ensure social distancing. (AFP)
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Updated 09 May 2020

Hong Kong gyms and cinemas reopen as virus measures ease

HONG KONG: Hong Kong began to ease major social distancing measures on Friday with bars, gyms, beauty parlours and cinemas reopening their doors after the financial hub largely halted local transmissions of the deadly coronavirus.

Queues formed outside gyms in the semi-autonomous Chinese city on Friday morning for employees to check temperatures as people celebrated the return of some normalcy to the city.

Doris, a 39-year-old yoga teacher, said her first classes were already filled after weeks of teaching online.

“I’m excited to share again... and see my students,” she told AFP.

“I was quite impatient to get back to the gym,” added Alexandre, a 26-year-old finance worker after completing a workout in the city’s commercial district.

“It shows that life is starting to get back to normal even though we haven’t been locked up like in Europe,” he added.

Will Sutton, an American resident, tweeted pictures of his local gym with partitions placed between running machines.

“After three weeks without a workout, whatever ... let’s just get back to sweating!” he wrote.

The less health-conscious flocked to watering holes, some of which opened their doors as soon as the clock struck midnight.

“Last month we lost a lot of money,” bar manager Nikita told AFP as he received the first punters in four weeks. “But still, we are just super happy to be back open.”

Most of Hong Kong’s entertainment venues were shuttered in early April when the city suffered a second wave of infections — primarily residents returning from Europe and North America as the pandemic spread rapidly there.

But health officials have made impressive headway against the disease thanks to efficient testing, tracing and treatment programs with just over 1,000 infections and four deaths.

New COVID-19 cases have been in the single digits for the last 18 days — with eleven days showing a zero tally. All new infections are residents returning from overseas who are quickly quarantined.

In a city mired in recession the reopening of many businesses will be welcome. But the threat of the virus means certain restrictions remain in place.

Bars are permitted to operate at half-capacity and must ensure a distance of 1.5 meters between tables, while live music performances and dancing remain banned.

Gyms, cinemas and beauty parlours must also ensure social distancing — such as adequate space between yoga mats — as well as temperature checks and hand sanitiser.

Pure, one of the biggest yoga chains, said it would limit classes to a maximum of eight people while bowling alleys are only opening every other lane.

Authorities have also lifted the limit on how many people can gather in public from four to eight.

Restaurants will also now be allowed to take bookings from groups of up to eight people.


Oil surges on hopes of new deal on output cuts

Updated 02 June 2020

Oil surges on hopes of new deal on output cuts

  • Brent price has doubled in five weeks
  • OPEC talks may be brought forward

DUBAI: Oil prices surged toward $40 a barrel on Monday as hopes rose for an early agreement to extend the big production cuts agreed by Saudi Arabia and Russia under the OPEC+ alliance.

Brent, the global benchmark, jumped by more 9 percent to nearly $39, continuing the surge that has doubled the price in five weeks — the best performance in its history. It recovered after record supply cuts agreed between the 23 countries of the OPEC+ partnership, and enforced cuts in US shale oil.

DME Oman crude, the regional benchmark in which a lot of Saudi Aramco exports are priced, rose above $40 a barrel for the first time since early March.

Market sentiment was buoyed by the possibility that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would agree with non-OPEC members to extend the cuts for a longer period than was agreed in April.

Oil analysts expect OPEC to fast track a “virtual” meeting to formally agree to maintaining cuts at the record 9.7 million barrels a day level. The meeting was scheduled for June 9, but bringing it forward would allow producers more time to set pricing levels.

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An official with one OPEC delegation told Arab News there was consensus among the 23 OPEC+ members for the new date, which could be as early as June 4. The meeting will also consider how long the current level of cuts would be maintained. Some OPEC members want it to run to the end of the year, other producers would prefer a two-month extension.

Omar Najia, global head of derivatives with trader BB Energy, told a forum run by Gulf Intelligence consultancy: “I’d be amazed if OPEC did not extend the higher level of cuts. As long as Saudi Arabia and Russia continue saying nice things to each other I’d expect the rally to continue.”

A Moscow source close to the oil industry said energy officials there had come to the conclusion that “the deal is working” and it was important to keep prices at an “acceptable” level.

Sentiment was also affected by a comparatively high level of compliance with the new cuts, running at about 75 percent among OPEC+ members, with only Iraq and Nigeria noticeable under-compliers.

Robin Mills, chief executive of Qamar Energy, said: “That’s where I’d expect it to be after two months in such a fluid situation. It will be even better in June.”