Hong Kong prohibits private gathering with strictest COVID-19 rule

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Published on : Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Hong Kong limits its gatherings in private homes for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began, in an attempt to keep residents from socializing as it fights an outbreak that risks dashing its strategy of keeping out the virus long term.

The city will limit multi-household gatherings on private premises to two families starting Thursday, but authorities won’t go door-to-door to check if the rule is being followed. It will also restrict public gatherings to two people, down from four currently, and expand the list of venues where entry is limited to those who are vaccinated to shopping malls, food markets and hair salons.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that then given this severe epidemic, I hope the public will accept that we have to go back to the most stringent level.

The authorities are turning to increasingly strict measures to try and tame an outbreak fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant that’s seen cases doubling every few days. Hong Kong reported a record 625 new Covid-19 infections on Tuesday, a significant increase for a city that had gone months with no community transmission and which continues to target a Covid Zero strategy, in line with China’s approach.

While the mainland is resorting to fresh lockdowns to suppress the virus, officials in Hong Kong indicated they’ll steer clear of such measures in the notoriously dense city, even as they remain committed to a pandemic policy that’s leaving the financial hub increasingly isolated.

The ballooning case numbers have put the city’s health-care system under severe strain, with long lineups for testing and a constantly shifting approach to quarantine facilities.

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