No dining in after 6pm: Hong Kong enforces tightest restrictions yet amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Hong Kong officials address media regarding new public health measures on July 13, 2020.
Hong Kong officials address media regarding new public health measures on July 13, 2020.

Amid a recent resurgence in cases, Hong Kong authorities have introduced the strictest public health measures since the COVID-19 outbreak began in January.

Speaking to reporters on Monday evening, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said restaurants will only offer take-out services starting 6pm until 5am the next day.

In view of the recent cases linked to taxi drivers, commuters must wear masks while taking public transportation or face a fine of $5,000.

Gatherings will also be restricted to four people or less, a return to a policy implemented in late March when a sharp rise in imported cases threatened to worsen the local outbreak.

The epidemic in Hong Kong eased significantly from mid-April onwards, but recently the outbreak has taken a sharp turn for the worst. Since July 6, authorities have recorded 253 new virus cases. Among them, 182—or almost three-fourths—are local infections.

Of the 52 new cases today, 41 patients have no recent travel history.

“[The spike in local cases] is what we are concerned about,” Lam explained. “Lately, we did have new cases almost every day but they were mostly imported. Eight or ten days would go by without a single local case. But now, within eight days, we’ve recorded 182 [local] cases.”

Lam said that 30% of the local infections were of unknown origin. Authorities have earlier raised concern about the large number of untraceable cases that have not been linked to any known clusters, warning that it represents asymptomatic spread going unnoticed in the community.

“This is the time for tightening,” she added.

Hong Kong also recorded its eighth coronavirus-related death on Monday evening. The 96-year-old female was admitted to hospital on July 10, and her condition deteriorated the next day.

As of Monday, 1,522 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Hong Kong.

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