HK orders masks in indoor public areas as infections hit record high

This article is more than 12 months old

Local transmission continues, with another daily record of 113 cases reported yesterday

HONG KONG: Hong Kong has extended strict social distancing measures, ordering masks in all indoor public areas, including malls and markets, as the global financial hub reported a daily record increase of coronavirus cases.

It reported 113cases yesterday, a new daily record, including 105 locally transmitted infections.

Hong Kong tightened social distancing measures after a spike in locally transmitted cases and as authorities warned about a third wave of infections.

"This is the most critical time for Hong Kong. We ask citizens to be patient and stay at home as much as possible," Health Secretary Sophia Chan said.

Commenting on the spike in cases, she said people had become more relaxed and were going out more without wearing masks.

The new order for masks in indoor public places would be for two weeks.

Since late January, more than 2,000 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 14 of whom have died.

Ms Chan said the closure of 12 types of venues including gyms and entertainment centres would continue until July 28, as would a ban on dining in restaurants after 6pm.

The finance hub was one of the first places to be struck by the virus when it emerged from central China.

But the city had impressive success in tackling the disease, all but ending local transmissions by late last month.

However, infections have spiked again this month and doctors say a new outbreak is spreading out of control in the densely packed territory of 7.5 million people. More than 800 infections had been confirmed in the last fortnight alone, more than a third since the virus hit the city.

In one nursing home, more than three-quarters of the elderly residents have been infected as of July 9.

Only eight of the 113 new cases reported yesterday were imported, meaning the rest have been contracted locally.

Officials were unable to identify the transmission source in 60 percent of cases, meaning the disease is spreading.

The city has had 2,132 infections in total.

As hospital wards fill, officials are scrambling to build a further 2,000 isolation rooms on barren land near the city's Disneyland resort to monitor and treat those who test positive.

Hong Kong was already mired in recession when the pandemic hit thanks to the US-China trade war and months of political unrest last year.

City leaders are keen to avoid an economically painful lockdown but have not ruled it out if the outbreak worsens.


Meanwhile, China reported 14 new cases in the mainland for Tuesday, up from 11 cases a day earlier, the health commission said yesterday.

Of the new infections, nine were in the far western region of Xinjiang, according to a statement by the National Health Commission. The other five were imported cases.

China reported 22 new asymptomatic patients, up from six a day earlier.

As of Tuesday, mainland China had 83,707 confirmed cases, the health authority said.

The death toll remained at 4,634. - REUTERS, AFP