The Hong Kong government announced on Wednesday that people must wear face masks in all public indoor places from Thursday.
From July 15, masks were made mandatory on public transport. From Thursday, the mask-wearing rule will also cover indoor area such as shops and supermarkets as well as transport terminals and interchange stops, said Health Secretary Sophia Chan. The new order will be in place for two weeks.
Chan said there have been more than 700 coronavirus infections over the past two weeks, more than 80% of which are local cases.
“We do not rule out any further stringent measures, which basically would focus on social distancing,” she said. “Whether there will be a lockdown of course depends on the entire situation.”
Ho Pak-leung, head of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection, said the government should consider making it mandatory for people to wear face masks in outdoor areas as a precaution. As the virus is highly infectious, it can spread among foreign domestic workers who gather outdoors at weekends.
Ho also urged authorities to extend the ban on dining in to cover daytime as well. He said draconian measures were needed to prevent a collapse of the healthcare system.
Ho said he is worried about outbreaks in places like correctional facilities with many people in one place because the government’s measures don’t target these places.
From last Wednesday, restaurants were ordered to provide only take-away food between 6pm and 5am. Some restaurants said their revenue in the evening dropped by 80 to 90%. Some chose to close in the evening.
On Wednesday, the Center for Health Protection said the number of confirmed cases recorded a high of 113, made up of eight imported cases and 105 local infections, within 24 hours on Tuesday. Among the local cases, 42 could be linked to previous cases while the remaining 63 had unknown sources. Most local patients were infected in social gatherings while some were teachers and chefs.
Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said on Wednesday that people should avoid going outside in the coming two weeks to one month.