HK takes strict steps as COVID-19 cases hit new high

Hong Kong will mandate face masks at indoor public places and add two countries including the United States to the high-risk list, as its daily increase of COVID-19 cases hit a new high on Wednesday.

Starting Thursday, people will be required to wear face masks at indoor public areas for 14 days, including shopping malls, supermarkets, building lobbies and bus terminus, Sophia Chan, Secretary for Food and Health of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government (HKSAR), told a press conference on Wednesday.

The measure was endorsed at a special meeting of the Executive Council, Chan said. People currently have to wear masks on public transport, according to an anti-disease regulation, Xinhua news agency reported.

Hong Kong witnessed a resurgence of coronavirus infections over the past weeks with numerous transmission chains still unknown. The government has strengthened control and preventive measures to curb the spread of the virus, including shutting down some entertainment venues and resuming restrictions on dining-in services at restaurants.

The Center for Health Protection reported 113 new infections on Wednesday, hitting a new high since the COVID-19 outbreak and bringing the tally in Hong Kong to 2,132. Among the new infections, 105 were local cases, including 63 with unknown sources.

Many new patients were suspected of being infected in nursery homes, restaurants and markets.

Chan said the next two weeks are crucial to Hong Kong’s anti-epidemic efforts and there could be stricter measures if the tally continues to increase.

As many areas in the world still face a grave pandemic situation, Hong Kong will add the United States and Kazakhstan to the list of high-risk areas, effective next Wednesday.

Inbound visitors who have been to these places within 14 days should provide health certificates, valid for 72 hours, before boarding. Countries on the list include India, the Philippines and South Africa.

The HKSAR government has also decided to extend a series of regulations on anti-epidemic measures, including mandatory quarantine for inbound visitors, the prohibition of large public gatherings and closure of some entertainment venues.