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HK imposes strictest restrictions amid record Covid-19 surge

13 July 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

CE Lam announces the strict new rules in a press conference with her top officials

Hong Kong has imposed the strictest measures so far since the outbreak of the coronavirus, including no dine-in at restaurants from 6pm to 5am, closing down of most public venues, requiring the wearing of masks on public transportation, and restricting public gatherings to no more than four people to a group.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam made the announcement in a press conference tonight, Jul 13, in the wake of a record 52 cases of Covid-19 being reported in a single day, with 41 of them locally acquired and spread across a wide area.

She said that over the past week alone, a total of 182 local cases were recorded, 54 of them with unknown source, giving cause for concern.

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Since the fresh outbreak of local cases, she said a number of new measures had been introduced as part of the government’s “lift and suppress” policy, including tightening border controls.

As part of this initiative, all arriving foreign domestic workers will now have to spend their 14-day mandatory quarantine in hotels, instead of their employers’ homes; plane and ship crews are now tested for the virus; and returning residents from highly infected places like India and Pakistan will be allowed to come back “in a more orderly manner.”

In addition, she said all travelers coming from “high-risk places” will now have to show certificates that they had tested negative for the coronavirus before they are allowed to board their plane, ship or buses, “otherwise the airline (or carrier) will be fined.”

She did not give a complete list of these places, but said the regulations will be announced in full in a government statement.

The new measures which Lam said will take effect starting Wednesday also include closing down amusement parks and all public venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

The annual Book Fair, which was given the green light only a few weeks ago, will now be deferred again, along with the planned resumption of the Mark Six lottery.
Restaurants which only recently were allowed to operate at full capacity, can now only do takeout meals from 6pm
For the first time, all restaurants will now be allowed to only provide food for takeaway from 6pm until 5am, and everyone who gets on a public transportation, including the paid areas of the MTR, should wear a mask. Those who refuse to comply with the regulation face a fine of up to $5,000.

Unlike before though, there was no order for non-essential civil servants to work from home. Lam said the Secretary for Civil Service only issued an advice for staff to adopt a flexible work arrangement, or meal times.
Lam also said testing for the virus will be stepped up to detect the asymptomatics, or those not showing any signs of the disease.

Those who will be tested immediately are the employees of elderly homes, restaurants and property management, as well as taxi drivers. These are the sectors that have proved most vulnerable in the latest rash of cases.

She said the government is enlisting the help of the private sector to reach its target of administering 8,000 tests per day.

For other members of the public, she said the government will be sharing its stockpile of 30 million masks. It will also look into providing more financial relief to businesses that will be hit hard by the new round of restrictions.

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