HONG KONG (AFP) – Visitors to Hong Kong’s annual exhibition of global gourmet food will once again not be allowed to sample the delicacies due to coronavirus curbs, the organiser said Tuesday (Aug 2).

Tens of thousands of visitors and hundreds of exhibitors are expected at the five-day Food Expo starting next Thursday (Aug 11) in the city’s Convention and Exhibition Centre.

But for the second year in a row, there will not be any tasting areas, and all attendees must keep their masks on due to public health restrictions, said Ms Sophia Chong, acting chief executive of the expo organiser, the Trade Development Council.

“We understand that visitors would like to taste the samples,” she said. “We hope we can resume this arrangement after the pandemic, when it’s safe and hygienic to do it.”

The decision was announced a day after the government said fans at November’s Hong Kong Sevens would be allowed to drink – but not eat – in the stands, with masks having to be worn between sips.

Ms Chong said organisers were not concerned by the measures’ impacts on the exhibition, as it would be the second year of the tasting ban.

“The number of exhibitors participating in this year’s Food Expo actually exceeded that of last year,” she said.

A new round of HK$2,000 ($352) consumption vouchers will be distributed to most of the 7.5 million Hong Kong residents from Sunday (Aug 7), which is expected to boost visitors’ appetites for shopping.

Hong Kong has been strictly adhering to China’s zero-Covid policy, enforcing some of the world’s most severe restrictions for more than two years, including mandatory quarantine for overseas arrivals and a ban on group gatherings of more than four people in public places.

In recent weeks, the city has been recording 3,000 to 4,000 daily infections, prompting fears of a resurgence after more than 1.2 million residents fell sick and 9,300 died in the first four months of the year.