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Costumed Hong Kong Rugby Sevens fans celebrate end of covid hiatus



HONG KONG — For the first time in more than three years, thousands of revelers packed a sports stadium to watch the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, a three-day tournament that ends Sunday. With drinks in hand and masks off (or at least under the chin), they danced to local bands, watched fireworks and donned the silly costumes that have become the event’s trademark.

The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens was last held in 2019, before the city imposed anti-coronavirus border closures and social distancing restrictions in early 2020. While rules are relatively relaxed now compared with mainland China, Hong Kong still requires masking in public spaces, use of a cellphone tracking app and medical quarantine for some positive cases.

In September, the government said it would abolish mandatory quarantine for travelers, easing rigid pandemic rules that have pummeled the economy and fueled an exodus of residents.

Poking gentle fun at the rules, spectators at the rugby tournament dressed up as government QR codes, or even the coronavirus itself.

Several visitors discovered to their dismay that they could not enter the stadium. Hong Kong’s covid-19 app — which gives users a green, amber or red code — bars anyone who flies into the city from entering certain venues, such as restaurants or bars, for three days.

After local media outlets picked up on the case of Renier Du Plessis, a barred South African tourist who become known as #AmberCodeMan on Twitter, he was finally allowed in.

More than 25,000 tickets were sold for the Hong Kong event, which is part of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series circuit. This year, 16 men’s teams are competing, fewer than in past years, when up to 24 teams played and some women’s teams were included.

Just days earlier, Hong Kong’s first major financial summit since the start of the pandemic had concluded with rousing declarations that the “worst is behind us.”

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