Hong Kong Extends Virus Restrictions to Ban Gatherings of More Than Two People

HONG KONG (Reuters) -
A medical worker in a protective suit collects a swab from a man to test for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a specimen collection point for taxi drivers inside a car park in Hong Kong, China, July 20. (Reuters/Lam Yik)

Hong Kong on Monday announced further restrictions to curb a surge in coronavirus cases, including a ban on gatherings of more than two people, a total bar on restaurant dining and mandatory face masks in all public places, including outdoors.

The measures, which take effect from Wednesday, are the first time the city has completely banned dining in restaurants. Since late January, more than 2,600 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.

The measures will be in place for seven days, he said.

The Chinese territory in July halted dine-in services from 6 p.m. as concerns grew of a third wave of infections 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 Sunday the fifth consecutive day of triple-digit infection figures.

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 introducing new rules to limit movements of ship and flight crews which stop in the city.

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 hospitals especially for infected patients.