HONG KONG – Hong Kong announced a two-week ban on incoming flights from eight countries on Wednesday, January 5, and tightened local COVID-19 restrictions as authorities feared a fifth wave of coronavirus in the city.
The latest restrictions were announced as health authorities scoured the city for the contacts of a COVID-19 patient, some of whom had been aboard a Royal Caribbean ship that was ordered to cut short its “cruise to nowhere” and return to port.
Incoming flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Britain, and the United States, including interchanges, would be banned from January 8 to 21, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told reporters on Wednesday.
Lam said the government would ban indoor dining after 6 pm from Friday, January 7, and close swimming pools, sports centers, bars and clubs, museums, and other venues for at least two weeks. Future cruise journeys would be canceled.
“We’re yet to see a fifth wave yet, but we’re on the verge,” Lam said.
Hong Kong recorded 38 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, but only one was a local community transmission, while the rest were people who had returned to the city and tested positive during quarantine.
The global finance hub has stuck to a zero-Covid strategy by largely isolating itself from the world and enforcing a draconian and costly quarantine regime.
On December 31, a streak of three months without community cases ended with the first local transmission of the new Omicron variant.
Since then, authorities have scrambled to track down and test hundreds of people who had been in contact with a handful of Omicron patients. One patient, however, had no known links, raising fears of a large outbreak.
“We are worried there may be silent transmission chains in the community,” Lam said. “Some confirmed cases had a lot of activities before being aware they got infected.” – Rappler.com