By BRITT CLENNETT and KARSON YIU, ABC News
(HONG KONG) — Life in Hong Kong had more or less returned to normal. Restaurants, shopping malls and public areas appeared to be buzzing once again.
However, after a sudden spate of locally-transmitted coronavirus cases over the past week, social distancing measures are abruptly back in force.
After almost a month without a single case, there have now been over 200 recorded in the city in the past week.
Hong Kong had already suppressed the outbreak twice and the fear is that this “third wave” could be worse than the first two.
President of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association, Dr. Arisina Ma, told ABC News that “the situation is really critical.”
Ma said the recent outbreak in Hong Kong is more serious than the outbreaks in March or April because this time around, the majority of cases are locally-transmitted and can’t be traced back to a single group gathering or event.
“We find that this time more and more cases are scattered in different parts of Hong Kong and they have no identifiable source,” Ma said.
“Similar to the United States or the United Kingdom, this time we also have more elderly who have been infected. When elderly people are the major source of infection, it puts pressure on our health care system.”
At midnight a batch of new measures came into place in Hong Kong, restricting public gatherings to no more than four people. Bars, gyms and public playgrounds are closed. Restaurants will be take-out only for dinner. Theme parks have been ordered to shut, including Hong Kong Disneyland, which had been back open for a month.
It is also now mandatory to wear a mask on public transport and in taxis, or face a fine of $645.
Hong Kong residents or passengers who transit through Hong Kong from high-risk countries must now produce proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight to Hong Kong.
Ma said that she believes these measures are “reasonable” but that people shouldn’t be banned from gathering in outdoor public areas if they wear masks.
Ma expects the measures to be extended beyond their current seven-day expiry date, saying, “I don’t think this outbreak will end soon, we may still have a month or two to go.”
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