Hong Kong is on the verge of a “large-scale” Corona Virus outbreak that might overwhelm hospitals, its chief warned Wednesday, as authorities applied their hardest social distancing measures but in a brand new blow for the economy.
From Wednesday all residents within the densely packed metropolis of seven.5 million should put on masks after they depart their houses whereas eating places can solely serve takeout meals.
No greater than two folks from completely different households can collect in public, with fines of as much as HK$5,000 ($625) for individuals who breach the brand new emergency guidelines.
The newest measures pile recent distress on a finance hub that was already mired in recession earlier than the pandemic started due to the U.S.-China commerce struggle and political unrest final yr.
Figures launched Wednesday confirmed town’s economy shrank by 9% year-on-year within the second quarter – the fourth contraction in a row.
As the pandemic took maintain within the first quarter of 2020, Hong Kong’s economy shrank 9.1% year-on-year, the worst fall on file.
The tough new social distancing guidelines are a bid to reverse a sudden spike in Corona Virus instances that has upended town’s in any other case enviable battle in opposition to the lethal illness.
More than 1,000 infections have been confirmed since early July – greater than 40% of the overall for the reason that virus first hit town in late January.
New day by day infections have been above 100 for the final eight days.
Although Hong Kong nonetheless has comparatively few instances, at present all those that check constructive are handled in isolation wards, that are quick filling up.
“We are on the verge of a large-scale group outbreak, which can result in a collapse of our hospital system and price lives, particularly of the aged,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam mentioned in an announcement launched Wednesday to coincide with the brand new measures.
“In order to guard our family members, our future health care employees and Hong Kong, I enchantment to you to comply with strictly the social distancing measures and keep at residence so far as potential,” she added.
During their lunch break Wednesday, many residents have been consuming takeaway meals exterior within the intense summer season warmth and humidity.
“It’s so sizzling exterior now,” a development employee, who gave his surname as Chow, informed Agence France-Presse (AFP) as he tucked right into a pork chop in an alcove exterior a division retailer.
“Ten minutes after I begin work, my shirt is all sweaty,” he mentioned, including he missed the air-con of eating places.
Hong Kong has a few of the world’s smallest and most costly residences. Some residents barely have a kitchen to prepare dinner in, making them vastly reliant on low-cost eateries.
From success to sudden surge
The finance hub was one of many first locations hit by the Corona Virus when it emerged from China in the beginning of the yr.
It initially had outstanding success in controlling the outbreak – helped partly by a health-conscious public embracing face masks and an environment friendly monitor and hint program, cast within the fires of the lethal SARS outbreak in 2003.
By June, native transmission had all however ended.
But the virus later sneaked again into town and started spreading.
Health officers have been scrambling to uncover the supply of the newest outbreak.
Some have blamed exemptions from the standard 14-day quarantine that the federal government granted to “important personnel,” together with cross-boundary truckers, air and sea crew and a few manufacturing executives.
The authorities has since tightened restrictions for a few of these teams.
Gladys Chan, who was taking her lunch break, mentioned she felt the federal government had not carried out sufficient to observe these with exemptions.
“I feel the federal government has failed us, particularly with this third wave of the pandemic,” she informed AFP, including the newest measures have been “too little, too late.”
As isolation wards refill, authorities have introduced plans to construct a short lived 2,000-bed discipline hospital close to town’s airport, one thing Chinese authorities have supplied to assist with.