Hong Kong is to enact its strictest measures yet to combat the coronavirus outbreak with most government workers set to work from home on Monday for one week. Only emergency and essential services will be provided by the government.
At a Sunday press briefing, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that her cabinet will seek to extend the existing compulsory mask rules to include all public indoor venues. Currently, masks must be worn on public transport.
Restrictions on eateries will be extended. From 6pm-5am, dining in will not be allowed – only takeout will be available for another seven days from Tuesday. Inspections will be stepped up, Lam added, and there will still be a limit of four persons per table in the daytime.
“The situation is really critical and there is no sign the situation is coming under control,” Lam said. “We have a new wave of transmission, and this one is far more critical.”
Lam confirmed that health authorities would announce 100 new coronavirus cases on Sunday – the highest daily total yet.
She said that, as a result of the uptick, schools must take special measures to distribute student’s DSE results remotely. Meanwhile, cleaning and disinfection efforts would be stepped up in Kowloon East, which is seeing a large number of cases.
“It’s tough, but – still – we need to fight this epidemic together. I must appeal to the public to be patient, so we can bring this wave of transmission under control,” Lam added, appealing to business owners not to lay off staff.
Lam added that, for arrivals to Hong Kong from high-risk countries, travellers will have to pay for quarantine in a designated hotel.
The new measures came despite Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung claiming earlier this week that there was no need for civil servants to work from home as there were enough masks and preventative measures in place.
Hong Kong has recorded 1,778 cases of Covid-19 – including 64 on Saturday. The 12th person to succumb to the disease passed away at Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Saturday – he was a 94-year-old male.
The Food & Environmental Hygiene Department has said that 12 public markets in Kowloon will be disinfected in the coming days. Meanwhile, taxi drivers are being offered free coronavirus tests at four testing points, and testing at elderly homes and for catering business workers has been increased.
Also on Saturday, the government confirmed a Customs and Excise Department worker tested positive. He worked in an office not open to the public, had no recent travel history and maintained social distancing. He also wore a mask and registered no fever.
First detected in Hubei, China, over 17 million people globally have been infected with Covid-19, whilst over 667,000 have died from the SARS-like disease according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
Correction 16:45: An early version of this article wrongly stated the length of new arrangements for civil servants. The measures will be enacted for one week from Monday.