HONG KONG – Hong Kong will close all nightlife venues and impose the use of mobile tracking applications on restaurants in an attempt to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in the city, the local government announced on Tuesday.
Health Secretary Sophia Chan told a press conference that 80 new infections had been confirmed, the highest figure in three months.
“There are multiple transmission chains in the community,” Chan said.
“We need to tighten all social distancing measures, because the pandemic is severe.”
Hong Kong will close nightlife establishments such as bars, karaoke bars, saunas and recreation halls for at least seven days and will also limit the capacity of the hotel industry.
It is the third time the authorities in the Special Administrative Region have resorted to such restrictions since the start of the pandemic.
According to the state-run RTHK, public gatherings, both outdoors and in restaurants, will remain limited to four people.
The recent cluster of cases has been linked to dance studios, some of which are unlicensed, RTHK reported.
The closure order for bars – which have not been connected to any outbreaks – has provoked anger from people in the industry.
The director of the Lan Kwai Fong Association, Anthea Cheung, told RTHK that she expects that nearly half of the city’s bars could go out of business if they have to close for an extended period.
“It’s very unfair. We are in a very passive position, because no matter what we do ... we have executed all the measures and also followed closely every single regulation, but we are still the one to blame,” Cheung said.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday morning that her government could still order the closure of more indoor venues if the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.
She also said that a mobile contact tracing application known as “LeaveHomeSafe” could be mandatory to enter restaurants.
Lam said her government would compel restaurants and other eateries to sign up for the scheme, which could potentially be extended to customers.
Meanwhile, the city has reopened a health center at the AsiaWorld-Expo convention center to relieve pressure on the growing demand for beds in public hospitals.
The center, which was open between August and September, has a capacity of 900 beds and will treat patients with mild symptoms.
Hong Kong now also requires mandatory nucleic acid testing for groups working on the frontlines, such as cab drivers and residential care workers.
On Sunday, Chan said that the local government would open five new testing centers in addition to the four that are already in operation.
“All Hong Kong residents should seriously guard against the virus and reduce unnecessary social gatherings,” Chan said.
“If we don’t stand our guard, the fourth wave will spiral out of control.”
Hong Kong has recorded 5,701 cases and 108 deaths from COVID since the pandemic began.