Hong Kong bans some incoming flights, tightens domestic restrictions on COVID-19 Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship “Spectrum of the Seas” Landed at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong, China, October 22, 2021. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu

Twinnie Siu and Jessie Pang

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong on Wednesday announced a two-week ban on incoming flights from eight countries and tightened local restrictions on COVID-19 as authorities feared a fifth wave of coronavirus in the city.

The latest restrictions were announced as health authorities searched the city for contacts of patients with COVID-19, some of whom were on board Royal Caribbean (NYSE 🙂 a ship ordered to stop its “cruise to nowhere” and return to port.

Incoming flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Britain and the United States, including intercity stations, will be banned from January 8 to 21, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told reporters on Wednesday.

Lam said the government would ban indoor dining after 6pm on Friday and close swimming pools, sports centers, bars and clubs, museums and other venues for at least two weeks. Future cruises will be canceled.

“We will still see the fifth wave, but we are on the edge,” Lam said.

The Global Financial Center has adhered to the strategy of zero Covid by largely isolating itself from the world and imposing a draconian and expensive quarantine regime.

On December 31, a three-month community-free series ended with the first local transfer of the new Omicron variant.

Since then, authorities have tried to find and test hundreds of people who have been in contact with several Omicron patients. However, one patient had no known connections, which caused fear of a major epidemic.

“We are concerned that there could be silent transmission chains in the community,” Lam said. “Some confirmed cases had a lot of activity before they were aware they were infected.”

The latest contact search campaign was initiated by a patient who danced on New Year’s Eve with about twenty friends in Central Park. Two fellow dancers, one of whom was a housekeeper, tested positive in preliminary tests.

The helper’s employer and eight other close contacts then went on a cruise on January 2.

As part of its restrictions due to the corona virus, Hong Kong has restricted cruises to short voyages in nearby waters, and ships are required to operate at reduced capacity and allow only vaccinated passengers who are virus-negative.

The ship “Spectrum of the Seas”, which returned the day before, had about 2,500 passengers and 1,200 staff. Nine passengers in close contact were isolated from other people in the ship, and preliminary tests performed during the voyage gave negative results, authorities said.

“Spectrum of the Seas is taking appropriate action in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement to Reuters.

Nine close contacts have been sent to the quarantine center, while other passengers and staff will have to pass several mandatory tests in the coming days, the government said.

In addition, people who were in dozens of places across Hong Kong at about the same time as close contacts with recent patients were issued mandatory test notices, the government said in a separate statement.

Victoria Park, in the center of Hong Kong, the newly opened M + Museum of Modern Art, ferry docks, restaurants, shops, clinics are among the listed places.

Gabriel Leung, dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong and a government adviser, told the public broadcaster RTHK that there are probably “five to 10 invisible transmission chains” in the city.

“There is no time to lose,” Leung said. “We need power outages.”

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