HK to restrict ships from changing crews

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Hong Kong will stop most ships from changing crews in the city to cut back on quarantine exemptions blamed for causing a new wave of coronavirus cases.
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Hong Kong will stop most ships from changing crews in the city to cut back on quarantine exemptions blamed for causing a new wave of coronavirus cases.

From Wednesday, only vessels with freight destined for Hong Kong will be able to change crews, but even they will not be allowed to mingle in public and must go straight to or from the airport, or stay in a designated quarantine venue.

“We believe by tightening up the relevant requirements, we can properly address the public concern on the health risk,” a government spokesperson said.

After seemingly ending local transmissions for weeks, new infections have hit triple figures on a daily basis in the densely packed finance hub — sparking fears the new outbreak is spreading out of control.

More than 1,000 infections have been confirmed since early July — more than 40 percent of the total since the virus first hit the city in late January.

Some health experts have blamed an exemption from the usual 14-day quarantine which the government granted to “essential personnel,” including cross-boundary truckers and air and sea crew. Because of its extensive air links and busy port, Hong Kong is a popular transit point for ships to change crews.

The government announced a slew of measures to tighten quarantine exemptions on Sunday as the city recorded 128 new cases in the previous 24 hours, including 103 local infections and 25 imported cases, bringing the total to 2,633 with 18 deaths.

It was the fifth straight day when the daily additional cases surpassed 100.

Out of the local cases, 68 are related to previously confirmed cases, mostly clusters concerning gatherings of families or friends, while the sources of infection of the other 35 cases remain unknown, Chuang Shuk-kwa, head of the Center for Health Protection’s Communicable Disease Branch, said on Sunday. The 25 imported cases mostly involve sea crew and foreign domestic helpers, according to Chuang.

Chui Tak-yi, under secretary for food and health, urged the public to suspend social activities such as family and friends’ gatherings, and called on the elderly and persons with underlying illnesses to avoid going out.

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