Hong Kong to announce new social distancing rules as coronavirus cases drop

Hong Kong is among regional spots battling a fresh wave of the virus after seeing initial success containing it. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong will announce new social distancing arrangements later Tuesday (Aug 25) after a "reassuring" downward trend in Covid-19 cases, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

Authorities are in continued discussions with representatives in the food and beverage, sports and salon sectors, Mrs Lam told a weekly briefing before a meeting of her advisory Executive Council.

Some of the city's strictest distancing measures were scheduled to expire Tuesday.

Mrs Lam said virus cases had been decreasing since she last briefed on Friday.

But she added that it was still hard to avoid some small community outbreaks, and that the government would continue monitoring and regularly test workers at the city's port.

Hong Kong reported just seven new locally transmitted infections on Monday.

"This trend is reassuring, but we're only seeing this trend for several days," she said.

Hong Kong is among regional spots battling a fresh wave of the virus after seeing initial success containing it, including Vietnam, South Korea and Australia.

The government has urged citizens to take part in a voluntary free two-week drive to test the entire population for the virus starting Sept 1, aided by Chinese experts and labs.

Mrs Lam repeated that the testing campaign was fully supported by the central government in Beijing and urged participation.

"I would appeal to the public to actively participate in the universal testing scheme in order to find silent carriers as soon as possible," she said.

"The reason why Hong Kong at this moment has a capacity to undertake such a large scale universal community testing is because of the assistance rendered by the central people's government."

Hong Kong shares fluctuated Tuesday morning before Mrs Lam spoke.

As Hong Kong's third wave surge of virus cases tails off , the government has been under immense pressure from restaurants and other small businesses to relax distancing measures.

Smaller businesses have been especially hard hit, with protests last year knocking Hong Kong into a recession even before the pandemic hit.

Executive Council members have said restrictions would likely ease after cases reached the single digits.

Hong Kong's Legislative Council will hold a special meeting to discuss the government's coronavirus efforts on Friday.

The tightened measures were enacted weeks after China imposed sweeping national security legislation on Hong Kong, and amid criticism over the government's decision to postpone a September legislative election by a year, citing the virus.

Activists have said they feared authorities would use anti-virus restrictions to limit their ability to protest.

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