Hong Kong imposes more restrictions to contain latest wave of Covid-19 cases

The new measures are similar to those announced in July, when the city faced its worst-ever outbreak. PHOTO: AFP
People queueing to get tested for Covid-19 in Hong Kong on Nov 30, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong is sending civil servants back to work-from-home arrangements as the government steps up efforts to contain the latest wave of coronavirus infections in the Asian financial hub, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Monday (Nov 30).

The move, which Mrs Lam urged private sector employers to follow, is the most far-reaching since another flare-up of infection started earlier this month and signals that authorities' concern that the current outbreak will escalate in scale.

Many multinational companies refer to what civil servants are doing to determine their own guidelines about employees coming to the office.

Mrs Lam also announced a ban on public gatherings of more than two people and the closure of venues such as mahjong parlours and swimming pools. Restaurants must now limit diners to two per table, down from the current rule of four. Gyms and sports venues will be allowed to stay open for now, though.

The new measures are similar to those announced in July, when the city faced its worst-ever outbreak.

The current resurgence has already delayed a planned air "travel bubble" with Singapore, and the onset of colder weather may mean that the virus' spread is harder to curb.

Hong Kong earlier announced that schools would shut again from Wednesday.

The city's social distancing measures have drawn criticism from businesses for being more unpredictable than places such as New Zealand, South Korea or Singapore.

This round of restrictions will start on Wednesday and last for two weeks, Mrs Lam said. The city reported 76 cases on Monday, most of them local, including nine of unknown origins.

Hong Kong estimates that the government employed more than 177,000 people as of June, accounting for about 4.6 per cent of the city's workforce. When civil servants were told to work from home during the last wave of Covid-19 cases, government services such as work-visa extensions were delayed.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.