Hong Kong will ban all non-resident arrivals amid COVID-19 outbreak

HONG KONG: Hong Kong will ban all non-residents from entering the financial hub from Wednesday (Mar 25), its leader said on Monday, as it tries to halt a recent spike in coronavirus infections from people returning from abroad.

Despite its proximity to the Chinese mainland, the financial hub has managed to stave off a runaway outbreak of the deadly virus partly thanks to the public overwhelmingly embracing face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.

Yet in the last two weeks, the number of cases has more than doubled to 318 infections after locals and foreign residents flooded back once the pandemic spread to Europe and North America.

“From midnight of Mar 25, all non-Hong Kong residents flying in from overseas will not be allowed into the city,” chief executive Carrie Lam said, adding that the order would be in place for at least two weeks.

All individuals coming from Taiwan and Macau, including Hong Kong residents, will also need to be quarantined, Lam said.

The city’s airport – the eighth busiest in the world – would also bar all transit passengers, Lam added.

Last Tuesday, Lam said that all arrivals to the city would be subject to a 14-day quarantine, but the new restrictions did not apply to arrivals from Macau or Taiwan. Residents were also advised to avoid all non-essential travel.

The government said on Monday it was also studying whether to suspend the sale of alcohol in licensed bars and restaurants in the city, which has 318 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and four deaths.

READ: Hong Kong postpones university entrance exams, schools to remain closed

About 8,600 restaurants and bars with a license will also be banned from selling alcohol but will, for now, be allowed to remain open.

Lam did not specify when the booze ban would be brought in, but said emergency legislation was being drafted.

Health officials had become increasingly alarmed about people gathering in large numbers in the city’s entertainment districts in recent weeks.

Last week, a slew of infections was found among patients who had all been out in Lan Kwai Fong, the city’s most famous nightclub street.

Restaurant groups had urged the government to allow them to remain open.

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