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Hong Kong police and Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officers raid a restaurant in Kowloon’s busy Mong Kok neighborhood © Hong Kong government

Cases of Covid-19 in Hong Kong crept up to a six-week high on Monday as the city presses forward with a tentative easing of restrictions to combat the virus but maintains its commitment to China’s zero-Covid policy.

The city recorded 515 cases of the virus on Sunday, the most since April as a cluster of infections stemming from nightclubs grew.

Authorities said they would step up inspections and enforcement in the city’s nightlife districts. Police and other agencies launched prosecutions of several bars and restaurants suspected of breaching anti-pandemic rules.

The rising case numbers challenge the city’s efforts to resume quarantine-free travel with the mainland, which incoming leader John Lee has said will be its top priority in terms of easing Covid-19 restrictions.

The eased restrictions helped Hong Kong’s private sector expand in May at the fastest pace in more than a decade.

The S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 54.9 in May, up from 51.7 in April. A reading above 50 signals expansion, while anything below indicates contraction.

It was the second straight month of expansion after three months of contraction to start the year as the government’s strict social distancing curbs affected economic growth.

China on Monday reported 171 new Covid-19 cases, of which 31 were symptomatic and 140 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said.

That compares with 162 new cases a day earlier, of which 56 were symptomatic.

Just four cases were reported in Shanghai — which only last week emerged from a two-month, near-citywide lockdown — and five in Beijing.

There were no new fatalities, leaving the national toll at 5,226, the commission said.

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