Hong Kong bans some inbound flights, tightens COVID-19 curbs

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Hong Kong announced a two-week ban on incoming flights from eight countries, including the United States and Britain, and tightened restrictions on Wednesday as authorities feared a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, APA reports citing Reuters.

The restrictions were announced as health authorities scoured the city for the contacts of a COVID-19 patient, some of whom had been aboard a Royal Caribbean (RCL.N) ship that was ordered to cut short its “cruise to nowhere” and return to port.

Incoming flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Britain and the United States, including interchanges, would be banned from Jan. 8 to Jan 21, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told reporters.

Lam said the government would ban indoor dining after 6.00 pm from Friday, and close swimming pools, sports centres, bars and clubs, museums, and other venues for at least two weeks. Future cruise journeys would be cancelled.

“We’re yet to see a fifth wave yet, but we’re on the verge,” Lam said.

Hong Kong recorded 38 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, but only one was a local community transmission, while the rest were people who had returned to the city and tested positive during quarantine.

The global finance hub has stuck to a zero-tolerance strategy by largely isolating itself from the world and enforcing a draconian and costly quarantine regime.

On Dec. 31, a streak of three months without community cases ended with the first local transmission of the Omicron variant. read more

Since then, authorities have scrambled to track down and test hundreds of people who had been in contact with a handful of Omicron patients. One patient, however, had no known links, raising fears of a large outbreak.

“We are worried there may be silent transmission chains in the community,” Lam said.

Lam said the government would not suspend classes for the time being “for the benefit of children”.