Hong Kong bans flights from 8 countries, tightens COVID restrictions | Coronavirus pandemic news

After the discovery of Omicron variant cases, Hong Kong announced a two-week ban on inbound flights from eight countries and tightened restrictions on the coronavirus.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters on Wednesday that flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States, including connecting flights, will be banned from January 8 to January. twenty one.

She said the government will ban indoor dining after 6 pm on Friday, and close swimming pools, sports centers, bars and clubs, museums and other venues for at least two weeks.

She said that all cruise ships have also been cancelled. Earlier Wednesday, a ship carrying 3,700 passengers and crew was ordered to stop its “nowhere to sail” and return to port for large-scale testing after 9 people were traced as close contacts of the Omicron case.

“We haven’t seen the fifth wave, but we are on the edge,” Lin said.

Like mainland China, Hong Kong has been pursuing a COVID-19 zero strategy and has taken some of the world’s most severe measures during the entire pandemic, including nearly closing borders, weeks of quarantine, targeted lockdowns, and large-scale test.

This keeps cases at a low level. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 7.4 million people in the region have reported more than 12,000 cases and 213 deaths. But strict measures isolate residents from the rest of the world.

On December 31, the absence of community cases for three consecutive months ended with the first local transmission of the Omicron variant.

Since then, authorities have scrambled to track and test hundreds of people who have had contact with a small number of Omicron patients.

However, one patient had no known connection, which raised concerns about a large-scale outbreak.

“We are worried that there may be a silent transmission chain in the community,” Lin said. “Some confirmed cases did a lot of activities before realizing they were infected.”

Lin said that the government will not suspend classes “for the benefit of the children” for the time being.

The latest contact tracing activity was triggered by a patient dancing in Central Park with about 20 friends on New Year’s Eve. Two dancers tested positive in preliminary tests, one of whom was a domestic helper.

The helper’s employer and her eight other close contacts took a boat tour on January 2.

As part of its coronavirus restrictions, Hong Kong has restricted cruise ships to short trips in nearby waters, ships are required to operate at reduced capacity, and only vaccinated passengers who have tested negative for the virus are allowed.

Royal Caribbean’s Ocean Spectroscopy returned a day earlier, with approximately 2,500 passengers and 1,200 staff on board. The authorities stated that the nine passengers who had been in close contact were isolated from the rest of the ship, and the preliminary test results conducted during the journey were negative.

Aerial photos showing cruise ships "Ocean spectrum" It docked at a terminal in Hong Kong on January 5, 2022. After finding that 9 people were in close contact with the recent outbreak of the Omicron variant, it was ordered to return to Hong Kong for coronavirus testing.Aerial photos show that the “Ocean Spectrum” cruise ship docked at a pier in Hong Kong on January 5, 2022. After 9 passengers were found in close contact with the nearest passenger, it was ordered to return to Hong Kong for coronavirus testing. Omicron variants broke out [Peter Parks/ AFP]

“Marine Spectrum is taking appropriate measures in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health,” Royal Caribbean told Reuters in a statement.

The government stated that nine close contacts were sent to the isolation center, and the remaining passengers and staff will undergo multiple tests.

In addition, the government stated in another statement that close contacts of recent patients who have been to dozens of places in Hong Kong at almost the same time have been notified of mandatory testing.

Located in Victoria Park in the heart of Hong Kong, the newly opened M+ Museum of Modern Art, the ferry terminal, restaurants, shops and clinics are all on the list.

Gabriel Leung, dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong and government consultant, told public radio station Hong Kong Radio that the city may have “5 to 10 invisible transmission chains.”

“There is no time to waste,” Liang said. “We need circuit breaker measures.”