Hong Kong’s Covid-19 social distancing measures will be tightened over fears of a community outbreak, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Wednesday, as she said the city was on “the verge” of a fifth wave of infections.

The decision came after Hong Kong recorded the first suspected “silent” local Covid-19 transmission in months on Tuesday.

From this Friday:

  • The government will impose the ban on dine-in services at restaurants after 6 p.m. and bars will be closed entirely.
  • The number of people allowed to sit at one restaurant table will also be reduced. For restaurants with unvaccinated staff members, only two people will be allowed per table. Groups of four will be allowed in eateries with vaccinated staff members, and groups of six will be allowed in restaurants with both vaccinated staff and customers.
  • Major events, such as Friday’s “Farm Fest” and the Cyclothon will be cancelled.
  • All gyms, theme parks, pools, party rooms, clubs, museums and a list of other designated premises will be closed.
  • Hospital visits will be halted.
  • “Cruises to nowhere” will be cancelled.
  • Workers are urged to work from home, whilst the four-person gathering limit and compulsory mask-wearing outdoors will remain in place.
Bars in Lan Kwai Fong. Photo: GovHK.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong will ban flights or travellers from eight countries, starting from Saturday. The countries include Australia, Canada, France, India, Philippines, Pakistan, the UK and the US.

Lam – who was not wearing a face mask at the press conference – added that schools will remain open as the psychological impact on children had to be taken into account. Meanwhile, civil servants will continue to work from their offices.

“The Covid-19 situation has drastically changed over the past day, the drastic change has made us really worried about Hong Kong’s overall pandemic situation,” she said.

Measures will be reviewed next Friday and will last for two weeks.

Fifth wave ‘technically begun’

The city’s leading microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said on Commercial Radio on Wednesday morning that a fifth wave of the pandemic “has technically begun,” and that the government’s “top priority” should be confirming whether the preliminary positive case had an unknown origin.

The Department of Health said on Tuesday that the “silent” transmission case involved an unvaccinated 42-year-old surveyor who had not visited Festival Walk shopping mall or the Moon Palace restaurant, where the first local transmission of Omicron occurred. Health authorities have not found the case to be a close contact of known positive cases, nor has he any recent travel history.

Photo: GovHK.

The patient’s residence at Tsui Ning Garden, Tuen Mun, was put under lockdown on Tuesday night and 985 residents were tested overnight. All were reported to be negative.

Meanwhile, experts are also concerned about a potential new cluster, as two new locally transmitted cases have emerged linked to a Cathay Pacific flight attendant who was previously confirmed with the Omicron infection.

A 48-year-old woman tested preliminary positive on Tuesday after dancing with a 62-year-old family member of the Cathay employee in a group of some 20 people in Victoria Park and at the Causeway Bay Community Centre on New Year’s Eve. The 62-year-old tested positive later on Sunday.

Another preliminary-positive case was a 43-year-old domestic worker who works for a close-contact of the 62-year-old.

Government enforces lockdown and compulsory testing in Tuen Mun. Photo: GovHK.

Health authorities imposed two separate overnight lockdowns at Causeway Tower and at Chesterfield Mansion in Causeway Bay in response to the two new cases; no further positive cases were found.

Cruise ship ordered back

A cruise ship with about 2,500 passengers and 1,200 staff was called back on Tuesday night as nine close contacts of the potential Omicron cluster were on board.

Residents in Ma On Shan undergo compulsory testing on January 2, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

They were the employer of the 43-year-old patient and eight other friends of the 62-year-old positive case, who had danced together on New Year’s Eve.

The Centre for Health Protection asked the company to isolate and test the nine and, so far, they have tested negative.

The vessel came back on Wednesday morning and the health authorities said they would test all passengers and staff, while the nine will be sent to Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre.

The M+ Museum in West Kowloon will also close on Wednesday and its staff will go for testing after a preliminary-positive case attended the museum.

Hong Kong recorded 38 cases on Wednesday, one of which was a locally-transmitted infection with an uncertain origin, bringing the total number of cases reported in Hong Kong to 12,799 while the death toll stands at 213.

Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.