The Food & Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today said it is investigating cases involving catering premises suspected of not complying with certain anti-epidemic regulations and restrictions.
The department made the statement in response to media enquiries yesterday about certain licensed catering premises where a number of customers were seen without masks on when not eating or drinking at their tables.
It is issuing letters to licensees or operators of all catering premises urging catering business operators to strictly comply with the requirements and directions under the Prevention & Control of Disease (Requirements & Directions) (Business & Premises) Regulation (Cap 599F) and requesting them to remind their patrons to comply with the anti-epidemic regulations and restrictions, including the mask-wearing requirement.
The department emphasised that it may prosecute catering business operators suspected to have violated the regulation relating to the requirement that their customers fail to wear a mask within the premises except when consuming food or drink at a table therein, and they maybe liable to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months.
Separately, in response to media enquiries on whether or not smoking waterpipes at catering premises breaches the law, the FEHD and the Department of Health offered a joint response that according to section 3(2) of the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance (Cap 371), no person shall smoke or carry a lighted cigarette, cigar or pipe in no-smoking areas, and waterpipes are covered by this provision. Offenders are liable to a fixed penalty of $1,500.
Furthermore, for a customer who is not eating or drinking, including when smoking waterpipes, but fails to wear a mask within catering premises, whether or not in no-smoking areas, such a situation would not be regarded as a reasonable excuse under section 5A(3)(e)(i) of the Prevention & Control of Disease (Wearing of Mask) Regulation (Cap 599I). Offenders are liable to a fixed penalty of $2,000.
In addition, any person who does not wear a mask for smoking waterpipes at public places outside catering premises is liable to a fixed penalty of $2,000.
The FEHD urges catering business operators to comply with relevant regulations and directions on prevention and control of disease in a concerted and persistent manner, to keep their staff, customers and the public safe.
Members of the public also have to comply with the related requirements and restrictions on group gatherings and mask-wearing at catering premises, it added.