Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam today announced stiff new measures to counteract the spread of COVID-19, including a two-week ban on almost all foreign arrivals and transit passengers, as well as a proposed legal amendment to temporarily ban bars and restaurants from selling alcohol.
The announcement came as Hong Kong, which had largely managed to keep a lid on new infections even as outbreaks in the rest of the world rapidly worsened, began reporting ever-increasing numbers of confirmed cases, the majority of them imported.
According to public broadcaster RTHK, Lam said that the new travel ban would not apply to the mainland, Macau, or Taiwan, as long as those residents hadn’t traveled anywhere else in the world in the prior two weeks. However, travelers from those destinations will now be subject to the same mandatory 14-day quarantine currently required of other arrivals.
The suspension of transiting passengers at Hong Kong International for 14 days will go into effect on Wednesday.
The proposed ban on alcohol sales in bars and restaurants, meanwhile, appears aimed at giving teeth to longstanding calls for social distancing, and comes after a handful of recent confirmed cases were linked to the nightlife hub of Lan Kwai Fong.
The travel ban brings Hong Kong in line with many other countries around the world — including regional quasi-rival Singapore — which have stepped up protections in recent days to stem the virus’ spread.
According to the SCMP, lawmakers in both the pro-establishment and pro-democracy camps this morning had called on Lam’s administration implement the travel ban in a showing of nonpartisanship practically unheard-of since last year’s months-long anti-government protest movement.
Currently, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded in Hong Kong stands at 317, though that number is expected to increase. So far, four people have succumbed to the disease in the city, while 100 have recovered and been discharged from hospital.