HK bans restaurant dining in virus fight
Hong Kong banned gatherings of more than two people on Monday, closed down restaurant dining and introduced mandatory face masks in public places, including outdoors, as it tries to rein in a new coronavirus outbreak.
The measures, which come into effect from tomorrow, are the first time that the densely populated city has completely banned dining in restaurants. Since late January, more than 2,700 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 20 of whom have died.
“The situation is very worrying,” said Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, adding that the current outbreak is the most severe the city has experienced.
In addition to the 12 types of venues, such as fitness rooms and game centers, sports venues and swimming pools will be closed.
The measures will be in place for seven days, he said.
Hong Kong, with a population of more than 7 million, since July 15 has halted dine-in services from 6pm but allowed restaurants and cafes to function through the day as normal.
However, the city has seen a spike in locally transmitted coronavirus cases over the past three weeks, with Monday being the sixth consecutive day of triple-digit infections.
Authorities reported 145 cases on Monday, a new daily record, of which 142 were locally transmitted cases. Out of the local infections, 83 are related to previously confirmed cases, while the sources of infection of the other 59 cases remain unknown, Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Center for Health Protection said on Monday.
Authorities have warned that citizens have become too lax about wearing masks and social distancing. Over the weekend, they stepped up controls, sealing off popular beaches and introduced new rules to limit movements of ship and flight crews.
Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority has said new cases are being found faster than public hospitals can take them in, according to public broadcaster RTHK.
China’s liaison office in Hong Kong said on Sunday that the central government had made clear it would boost the city’s capacity in coronavirus tests and help set up makeshift hospitals especially for infected patients.
“(The central government) has also responded actively to the request by the chief executive and will offer help in the work of expanding Hong Kong’s testing capacity and the work of converting AsiaWorld-Expo into ‘mobile cabin hospital,’” Cheung said.
Meanwhile, China’s mainland recorded 61 new coronavirus cases on Monday — the highest daily figure since April 14.
The bulk of 57 new domestic cases were found in the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, according to the National Health Commission, where a sudden outbreak in the regional capital of Urumqi occurred in mid-July.
Dalian City in the northeastern province of Liaoning reported 14 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing its total of new domestically transmitted cases to 38 since July 22. Two more cases were found in the neighboring province of Jilin. Both patients had traveled from Dalian.
The last four infections confirmed on Monday were imported from overseas.
A total of 1.68 million people have been sampled for nucleic acid tests in Dalian, since the city began large-scale testing on Sunday following reports of new COVID-19 cases.
On Sunday alone, more than 1.25 million samples were collected in the city.
The city has suspended 99 bus lines and now requires passengers taking long-distance buses to show negative results from nucleic acid tests conducted within seven days.
Experts still have not confirmed the origin of the recent Xinjiang cluster, which has infected 178 people to date.