World

Hong Kong reimposes tough new restrictions

HONG KONG: Hong Kong reimposed tough social distancing measures yesterday - shuttering many businesses and making face masks on public transport mandatory - after a spike in coronavirus cases threatens to undo months of success against the disease.

The finance hub was one of the first places to be struck by the coronavirus when it emerged from central China.

But it had impressive success in tackling the disease with just over 1,500 infections, eight deaths and local transmissions all but ended.

But in the last two weeks, more than 200 local infections have been recorded and officials believe the virus is spreading again.

Health authorities described the situation as "very worrying", with more than 70 of the recent local cases having an unknown origin.

The city reported 19 new cases yesterday, including 14 that were locally transmitted - a big drop from the 48 cases reported on Tuesday.

COMPULSORY

From yesterday, face masks were made compulsory on public transport.

A 70-year-old man was the first to be arrested for not wearing a mask on the city's subway, local newspaper Apple Daily reported.

Those who breach the rules face a HK$5,000 (S$895) fine.

Public gatherings of more than four people are now banned, while several businesses - including gyms, salons, bars, nightclubs and karaoke lounges - were ordered to close.

Restaurants can seat customers for breakfast and lunch - with a maximum of four people per table - but can serve takeaway food only from 6pm to 5am.

Meanwhile, Australia's Victoria state reported another 238 cases in 24 hours, even after reimposing a lockdown last week.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews singled out a minority of people for defying lockdown orders, warning restrictions could be extended.

Nationally, Australia has now recorded about 10,500 cases, while the death toll rose to 111 yesterday after a woman in her 90s died from the virus.

In New South Wales, which has seen several dozen cases in the past week, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state will likely need new restrictions.

She ruled out a blanket lockdown however, citing the economic damage.

Indonesia reported 87 more deaths yesterday, its biggest daily jump, bringing the total number of fatalities to 3,797, its Health Ministry said.

It also reported 1,522 new infections, taking the overall tally to 80,094 cases. - AFP, REUTERS

WORLD