Latest specifications and directions in relation to catering business issued
under Cap. 599F, which take effect from 17 November 2022 to 30 November 2022
(the specified period)

Q1: What is the new requirement for customers participating in banquets in catering premises starting from 0:00 a.m. on 28 August 2022?
A1: 

Starting from 0:00 a.m. on 28 August 2022, every customer participating in a banquet must produce a photo of the negative result of a RAT conducted within the preceding 24 hours before entering the premises.  The customer shall mark on the RAT testing kit his/her name as well as the date and time of taking the test.  He/she shall take a photo of the testing kit and save it in his/her mobile phone for checking by the operators before entering the premises for the banquets, and for inspection by authorised officers upon request. [RAT requirement]

Regarding the request for rapid antigen test of children under the age of three participating in banquets, considering that not all young children may be suitable for testing, law enforcement officers will exercise their discretion and deal with them in a more flexible manner.

For epidemic prevention reasons, there is no need to present the testing kit.  To avoid the risk of virus transmission of a positive case, the RAT should not be conducted in a public area inside and outside the premises.

Q2: What is the definition of “a banquet” under in the specified period?
A2:

“A banquet” refers to a situation with customers exceeding the number allowed to be seated together at one table (the existing requirement is not exceeding twelve persons per table) and dining together at a catering premises with a common purpose.

For illustration, any gathering with 13 customers sitting at two tables (whether the sitting arrangement is 8 persons + 5 persons or 6 persons + 7 persons) will be deemed as having “a banquet”.  All participants must comply with the RAT requirement.

Q3: Will customers and operators of catering premises be held legally liable for failing to comply with the requirement?
A3:

Customers who fail to comply with the RAT requirement are liable to a fixed penalty notice at a fine of $5,000.

As regards operators of catering premises, they are required under statute to perform due diligence checks.  Law enforcement officers will consider whether operators of premises have performed due diligence checks on the information provided by customers about their RATs conducted within the preceding 24 hours.  Whether the information is a false statement will be judged by the law enforcement officers.  If the operators of the premises can provide evidence showing that all reasonably practicable measures have been taken to comply with the relevant requirements, they need not be overly concerned.  Operators of catering premises who fail to perform due diligence checks will be prosecuted.  The premises concerned will be required to adopt corresponding measures to reduce the risk of transmission for a period of 14 days starting from the subsequent day of being identified of the irregularities by enforcement officers.  The measures include shortening the dine-in period to 6:00 p.m. and allowing no more than two persons to be seated together at one table at any other times.

Q4:

If a customer intentionally conceals the fact that more than twelve persons are dining together [i.e. participating in a banquet] and fails to comply with the RAT requirement, will the catering premises operators be held liable?

A4:

During inspections to catering premises, law enforcement officers of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department or relevant departments will base their judgement on the investigation results and other relevant factors.  They will issue fixed penalty notices to the customers and/or summons to the operators of the premises concerned only if there is sufficient evidence.  It is difficult to generalise how to determine whether the premises operators have performed due diligence checks, as it depends on the actual circumstances of individual cases.  There is no need to worry on the part of the catering industry if all reasonably practicable measures have been taken to comply with the relevant requirements.

Q5: Can a customer undergo a polymerase chain reaction-based nucleic acid (PCR) test in lieu of the RAT as required for participating in a banquet?
A5:

Given that the public may have to undergo PCR tests for different reasons, if a customer participating in a banquet possesses an SMS notification containing the negative result of a PCR test, and the SMS is issued within 48 hours prior to his/her entry into the catering premises for the banquet, he/she will be taken to have complied with the RAT requirement.

Q6: At present, are customers of other premises required to comply with the requirement for undergoing a RAT on the day of entry into the premises?
A6:

Starting from 16 June 2022, customers of bars/pubs, catering premises entering the bar/pub zones of the premises and clubs/nightclubs are required to comply with the RAT requirement.  We notice that customers have adjusted to such arrangement, which has been implemented smoothly.  It is believed that other catering premises will not have much difficulty in complying with the RAT requirement.