Hong Kong considering tighter Covid-19 restrictions as cases climb

The city reported 7,884 new Covid-19 cases on Aug 24, the highest number since the end of March. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong health officials said tighter social distancing restrictions could be considered if rising Covid-19 cases worsen the pressure on the city's health system.

The city reported 7,884 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday (Aug 24), the highest number since the end of March.

Increased hospitalisations have put pressure on the healthcare system, prompting hospitals to scale back non-emergency services and reopening community isolation facilities.

Expanding virus curbs would be seen as a step back for Asia's financial hub, which has struggled to balance reopening its borders with mainland China and the rest of the world.

"The current situation is on a rising trend. Of course we hope to conduct a targeted virus control approach, but we are very worried about the health-care system capacity," health official Chuang Shuk-kwan said at a briefing.

"If the pressure on health-care capacity continues, the government - although unwillingly - can't rule out the chance to tighten some social distancing rules, and that will impact more residents."

While cases and hospitalisations are rising, the number of people seriously ill remains low, with 43 patients in critical condition and 11 in intensive care as of Wednesday.

Any return of social distancing measures would put Hong Kong even further away from other places, like finance hub rival Singapore, where nearly all pandemic restrictions have been dismantled.

Chief Executive John Lee - sworn into office on July 1 - has pledged to restore the city's global standing.

Hong Kong has made tentative steps to ease some of the world's toughest travel restrictions, including reducing the period of time visitors spend in hotel quarantine to three days from seven.

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