Coronavirus: HK karaoke venues reopen, but they’re not on song yet

01-Jun-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

After being deprived of the chance to sing at a karaoke lounge for two months, Yuki Tsang was quick to book a room at a venue in downtown Hong Kong on Friday when the government allowed the businesses to reopen on the back of the improving coronavirus situation.

The 24-year-old medical worker was eager to belt out some tunes with a friend at a branch of leading operator Neway on Yee Wo Street in Causeway Bay.

“I’ve been so longing for it,” Tsang said with a smile. When asked about the risks of contracting the virus, she said the threat could be anywhere and there was no need to be excessively cautious.

Her sense of optimism is shared, at least in part, by the Hong Kong government. The city has not recorded a local case of transmission since May 14, and the number of infected residents returning from overseas has steadily dropped although Friday saw 13 imported cases reported, the most in nearly six weeks, taking the total to 1,079, with four related deaths.

The authorities announced that four types of venue karaoke lounges, nightclubs, bathhouses and party venues could open their doors after being shut since April 1. For owners, the order could not have come fast enough.

“We are normally totally occupied at the weekend, every weekend,” said Vanessa Lau Cheung-yan, business development and operations manager at Roomss, which rented out themed party rooms to groups. “Some people probably don’t know we are reopening today. Maybe after that or next week or the next week, they’ll come. Right now, we are 40-50 per cent booked up.”

Sauna facilities in bathhouses will remain shut and nightclubs cannot stage live performances or dances, while reopening businesses must follow preventive measures: patrons must wear masks and have their temperatures checked, and groups must be kept to a maximum of eight people in line with the limit on public gatherings.

“The maximum of eight people means we cannot earn as much as we could, so it does affect our business,” Lau said.

In normal times, up to a dozen people would crowd into one of the four rooms, with themes such as “camping” and “films”. Hot food, another revenue stream, is also off the menu for now. While business was brisk on Friday afternoon, advanced bookings were still down and could be slow to return.

At karaoke chain Red MR, business was about 30 per cent the usual level. “The social gathering ban is still in place,” communication director Joan Law said. “A room with a maximum capacity of 20 people can only accommodate no more than eight.”

The chain is offering patrons preventive packs which include an envelope for mask storage, disinfecting wipes, coloured straps to identify separate microphones, as well as covers for them. Customers are being advised to only take off their masks when eating or drinking.

The city had previously reported a cluster of cases tied to karaoke lounges, and the government on Friday warned some types of entertainment still posed a health threat, including singing.

At Neway in Causeway Bay, Tsang said she would keep her mask on, and pointed out that only two people were sharing the room.

Stephen Fu, a security trainer in his 50s who described himself as a frequent customer, was visiting with four friends. He believed the karaoke lounge had done its best to ensure good hygiene.

But as extra protection, he brought gloves and his own microphone covers to make sure everyone had one.

Pointing to Hong Kong’s long streak without any local infections, Fu said it was worth trying to reopen karaoke lounges. “We can’t be 100 per cent sure whether it is the best time, but we should give it a try,” he said.


Category: Hong Kong

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