Hong Kong is to enact a 2-person limit on group gatherings from Wednesday in response to the escalating Covid-19 outbreak.

Dining-in at restaurants will also be banned and mask-wearing will be compulsory in outdoor public places, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung has said. The measures will expire on August 4.

At a press briefing on Monday, Cheung said there have been 1,164 cases in the past fortnight and only 113 were imported. He said that dining-in at all eateries will be banned at all times, and venues will have to conduct temperature checks and provide alcohol rub whilst food court seating must be cordoned off. Bars will remain closed.

The group gathering ban will not apply to people living in the same residence – such as families – or to those riding in public or private transport. The compulsory mask rules will exempt those who are eating or taking medication or those who are physically or mentally unwell, but the regulations will not exempt smokers.

Coronavirus virus covid-19
A photo taken in March shows a woman wearing a face mask exiting a shop in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: GovHK.

Cheung said the government was responding to the severity of the pandemic: “We have thoroughly considered the Centre for Health Protection risk assessment and the government expert panel’s advice. We try to strike a balance between the three factors: public safety, the economy and citizens’ endurance. In view of the situation, we are proportionately imposing these measures.”

Two more deaths

The Executive Council approved the measures on Monday as the city recorded two more coronavirus-related fatalities – a 76-year-old female and 92-year-old male at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei. The death toll now stands at 20 with 2,633 infections.

The government has already tightened anti-epidemic restrictions by slashing the number of people allowed to gather in a group in public to four and ordering the public to wear masks indoors, following a surge in untraceable local infections.

mask coronavirus covid social distancing
File photo: May James/HKFP.

From July 13 to 26, there have been 1,030 additional local cases – 492 of them had unknown sources of infection and 538 had epidemiological links to other confirmed cases.

First detected in Hubei province, China, Covid-19 has infected more than 16.2 million people and led to at least 648,900 deaths worldwide, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

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