Hong Kong has tightened anti-Covid measures amid a rise in untraceable infections and warnings of a large-scale community outbreak.
From early on Wednesday, 12 types of premise, including karaoke, nightclubs, fitness centers and mahjong parlors, will be shut down, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Monday.
Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland will be closed again.
Gatherings of more than four people will be banned in public places, while no more than four people can sit together at a table in restaurants. Currently, up to 50 people are allowed to gather in public.
Restaurants will only be allowed to provide takeaway food between 6pm and 5am, and everyone must wear a mask on public transport or be fined fined HK$5,000 (US$645).
The government will provide free virus tests to 400,000 people, including taxi drivers and property management officers.
However, Lam said the government has decided not to allow civil servants to work from home this time because such a move may affect public services. She said civil servants will have flexible working and lunch hours.
On Monday, 41 local infections were recorded, including 21 that could be linked to previous cases and 20 with unknown sources, according to the Center for Health Protection.
Hong Kong’s epidemic has been “a bit out of control” recently as many infections were identified in different sectors across the city, said Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the center’s communicable disease branch.
If people do not remain vigilant in social distancing, Hong Kong will see a sharp growth in infections, Chuang said.
Gabriel Leung, professor of public health medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said in a radio program on Sunday that Hong Kong is having a “sustained massive local outbreak” with East Kowloon and Shatin as high-risk districts.
Citing medical data, Leung said each locally infected patient in Hong Kong could spread the virus to three to four people, which was higher than the two-and-a-half to three people in Wuhan in January. He said the figures showed that the virus could have mutated and become more infectious.
Leung suggested the government find asymptomatic patients by testing all elderly people living in East Kowloon.
Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said the public seemed to be fatigued about epidemic measures. Yuen added that 75% of the coronavirus had mutated in March but had not caused a large outbreak in Hong Kong until recently. He said people must follow social distancing rules and always wear a mask outside.
On Monday, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council announced the postponement of the annual book fair, which was due to start on Wednesday. The council has postponed three other events set for this month, a sports and leisure expo, an education and careers expo and HKTDC entrepreneur day.
As of 4pm on Monday, the total number of infections in Hong Kong reached 1,521.