Hong Kong goes into near total lockdown under Zero Covid strategy

Hong Kong goes BACK into near total lockdown under Zero Covid strategy after hamster cull and draconian restrictions failed to halt Omicron Covid cases… as the rest of the world moves on

  • Hong Kong has tightened its Covid rules after cases hit record levels Monday 
  • Almost all leisure facilities are now closed, with hair salons and places of worship today added to a list that already included bars and theatres
  • Leaders are continuing to pursue a zero-Covid strategy, which has included extreme measures such as culling thousands of hamsters
  • But it has made little difference to cases, which rose to a record 607 on Monday 

Hong Kong is going into its strictest lockdown since 2020 after daily Covid cases broke records on Monday, despite draconian measures to stop the virus already being in place.

Almost all leisure businesses in the self-governing region are now closed, with hair salons and houses of worship added to the list today. Public gatherings have been limited to two people, while private gatherings are limited to two families.

Hong Kong, like mainland China, is continuing with a draconian zero-Covid strategy even in the face of the more-infectious Omicron variant – imposing harsh restrictions aimed at eliminating the virus even as other countries begin living with it.

The extreme approach recently saw 2,000 hamsters culled after several tested positive at a pet store where a member of staff fell ill.

Hong Kongers queue to get tests as the city battles its largest wave of virus to date while continuing to pursue and aggressive zero-Covid strategy

Medical workers test city residents for Covid, as cases hit 607 on Monday – a record for Hong Kong but well below levels seen elsewhere

Hong Kong health authorities reported 607 cases of the virus on Monday, an all-time high for the city-state where the previous record was 142 in July 2020.

The figure is well below infections being reported in countries with similar populations – such as Switzerland, where daily infections are over 30,000. 

Of Hong Kong’s 607 cases, just 150 are linked to known prior infections or travel – meaning there is now a substantial amount of unseen ‘community spread’.

Few cities have managed to tame an outbreak that large back to zero cases, according to Bloomberg.

Examples include Wuhan – which was subjected to paralysing lockdown measures by Beijing during its original outbreak – and Melbourne, Australia – which suffered through the world’s longest lockdown last year.

Hospitals in Hong Kong they are already being overwhelmed by the relatively low number of cases, owing to rules that mean anyone who tests positive has to quarantine inside a health facility – even if they have a mild or asymptomatic case.

Close contacts of infected people were also forced to isolate in a health facility, but under new rules announced Tuesday some of those people will now be allowed to isolate at home instead. 

Announcing the new restrictions, city leader Carrie Lam said hair salons and places of worship will be forced to shut their doors starting today. 

They will join bars, nightclubs, gyms, swimming pools, spas and other leisure facilities that were closed weeks ago to prevent the spread of the virus.

Restaurants will be allowed to remain open under the new restrictions, Lam said, but will be limited to just two guests per table – unless all staff and guests are vaccinated, in which case the limit is four.

Restrictions will remain in place until at least February 24, when businesses will be reopened using Covid passes.

Anyone wanting to access leisure facilities – in addition to supermarkets and wet markets – will be required to show evidence they are fully vaccinated against Covid.

Guests will also need to have a contact tracing app installed on their phone and turned on, with spot checks carried out by police. 

‘I appeal to the public to join us in the fight against the virus,’ Lam said at a news conference. ‘Please try to avoid going out as far as possible.’ 

Authorities impose lockdowns on residential buildings wherever clusters of infections are identified, and have banned public dining after 6 p.m.

Lam said that approach will remain in effect until vaccination rates rise.

‘We will continue to adhere to the current strategy of trying to contain the spread of the virus, or what we call maintaining this dynamic zero regime,’ Lam said.

A barber watches city leader Carrie Lam announced that his business will have to close from today in order to tackle the wave of Covid cases

‘But when vaccination rates increase, when omicron disappears and other things happen, then of course we will continue to revisit our strategy. 

‘But nothing will change our commitment to safeguard the life and the safety of the people of Hong Kong.’

Around 64 per cent of people in Hong Kong are fully vaccinated against Covid, which places it firmly mid-table in a ranking of world nations – around the same level as the United States.

The European average sits at 72 per cent. Vietnam is at about the same level, while China and Singapore claim around 84 per cent full vaccination.

Lam also announced that the government will introduce a sixth round of subsidies totaling $3.3 billion for businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic.

Those suffering from temporary unemployment as a result of the pandemic will receive a one-time payment of $1,300.

Front-line workers such as cleaners, security guards and airport cargo staff will receive about $250 a month for five months.

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