The Hong Kong government today (June 2) extended social distancing rules by two weeks until June 18 after local infections reappeared over the previous few days.
The 14-day home quarantine requirements for people arriving from the mainland, Macau and Taiwan, which were to expire on June 7, have also been extended by one month to July 7, according to the Compulsory Quarantine of Certain Persons Arriving at Hong Kong Regulation.
Those who travel between China’s Guangdong province and Hong Kong will be exempt from the requirements. Meanwhile, the 14-day home quarantine requirements for people arriving from places other than the mainland, Macau and Taiwan, which were to expire on June 18, have been extended to September 18.
An eight-person limit on public gatherings was to expire on Thursday evening.
The rules were extended to June 18 after a fresh cluster of cases was identified on Sunday and Monday, with nine people being infected so far.
A 34-year-old woman, who worked in a food-packaging warehouse in Kwai Chung and lived in Luk Chuen House, Lek Yuen Estate in Shatin, was believed to be a super-spreader of the cluster.
She was critically ill in intensive care at Prince of Wales Hospital on Saturday. Her husband, a paramedic and two of her colleagues were also tested positive to the virus.
On Tuesday, four more people who lived in Luk Chuen House were found to be infected. Separately, two people returning from Pakistan were identified as imported cases.
“Living in the same building but not affected by the drainage system or building structures is something that gets me very worried,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a media briefing on Tuesday before the weekly Executive Council meeting.
Lam said the government would take a cautious and prudent approach when considering whether to relax social distancing measures and border controls after this latest outbreak.
The Health Department has collected more than 800 saliva samples from residents in Luk Chuen House for testing. It will collect samples from the nearby public facilities.
It was possible that the new patients in Luk Chuen House were infected by contaminated public facilities in Lek Yuen Estate as they had been to the Lek Yuen Market, said Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection.
Due to the extension of social distancing rules, a couple of protests will probably be banned by police for public health reasons. Protesters have said they may rally on June 9, which marks the one-year anniversary of the anti-extradition protests. They also plan to hold protests on June 12, 15 and 16.
Political tensions in the city are expected to grow in coming weeks as the standing committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) meets in late June. The NPC is expected to pass a national security law for Hong Kong at the meeting or at the next one in August.
Wu Chi-wai, a Democratic Party lawmaker, said the social distancing rules have become a tool for the government to suppress Hong Kong people’s freedom of assembly and expression. Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, a legislator of the Civil Party, said police have misused social distancing rules in recent protests.
But Lam said, “It’s not a matter of taking away people’s freedom. Public health is also part of national security. National security is not just about explosives and rivals. National security includes financial security and public health security.
“When it comes to matters like public security, people will accept it. Hong Kong people willingly abide by some of the restrictions to protect themselves, their families and society at large.”