HK to tighten measures amid virus surge

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said social distancing measures will be tightened as cases of the coronavirus continue to surge, with a ban on night time dining and more businesses ordered to close.

Lam said at a regular news conference yesterday that there will be a ban on dine-in services at restaurants after 6pm, and venues such as beauty salons and gyms will be closed temporarily. She did not specify when the measures will take effect.

“We all need to be mentally prepared about more measures to be rolled out,” Lam said, adding that there was “no choice” given the current virus situation in the city.

Hong Kong is grappling with the latest surge of coronavirus infections, with nearly 1,200 new cases in the last two weeks after a three-month lull.

Hong Kong has reported a total of 6,976 cases, including 112 deaths.

Meanwhile, South Korea said it plans to secure around 84 million doses of coronavirus vaccines for a mass immunisation programme that officials hope will allow the country to restore some level of normalcy by mid-to-late 2021. Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said yesterday that the doses would cover 44 million people in a population of about 51 million. The shots will be delivered first to medical professionals, essential workers and people most at risk from COVID-19, including senior citizens and residents at long-term care facilities, starting possibly within the first half of next year, although officials didn’t provide a specific timetable.

A medical worker walks at a coronavirus testing centre in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AP

In China, authorities have ordered mass coronavirus testing and locked down some locations in the southwestern city of Chengdu following the detection of two new virus cases there. Chengdu health officials identified the cases as a 69-year-old woman, who’s condition is listed as serious, and her 71-year-old husband, who has yet to show symptoms.

Officials at a Monday night news conference said they are still investigating the source of the infection in Sichuan province’s capital and largest city, which has been relatively unscathed by the pandemic.

Elsewhere, Australia said it will extend its ban on international cruise ships and on Australians leaving the country except under exceptional circumstances for another three months until March. The extension means the human biosecurity emergency declaration will last for at least a year despite COVID-19 cases declining in the nation.

Latest government figures showed there were only 1,618 active COVID-19 cases, with 30 patients in hospitals. In all states but the former hot spot Victoria, most of the infections were acquired overseas rather than from community transmission within Australia.