Hong Kong Bans Non-Residents, Says Bars Can’t Serve Alcohol

(Bloomberg) --

Hong Kong will ban non-residents from visiting for 14 days and wants to prevent bars from serving alcohol as the city sees a second wave of imported coronavirus cases.

The travel measure will take effect starting on midnight Wednesday, the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a news conference on Monday. Hong Kong will also halt all airport transit services and impose harsher punishments for quarantine violators, she said.

“To anyone who intends to breach the quarantine orders, anyone who still wants to go out and meet up with friends, can you not be restrained for some more time so Hong Kong can win this battle?” Lam said, fighting back tears.

Hong Kong has seen imported coronavirus cases spike as foreign and local residents returned from overseas ahead of a government deadline last week imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine on all arrivals. Several Covid-19 infections have been linked to the Lan Kwai Fong area of bars and restaurants, as well as a wedding banquet in the expatriate enclave of Discovery Bay.

The push to curb alcohol sales was criticized as an unnecessary blow to the city’s already struggling hospitality sector, which saw business collapse last year during months of anti-government protests. On Tuesday, Lam indicated that she would prefer voluntary compliance with her request to ban alcohol sales, but would implement legislative measures if necessary.

“This is a difficult task,” she told reporters at a regular briefing. “Of course, we hope that every member of the public will exercise restraint. If they successfully do it, then there’s no need to adopt legislative work. But in order to assure Hong Kong people, we are willing to adopt legislative work.”

Before the virus spread in the U.S. and Europe, Hong Kong had managed to contain the outbreak by closing schools, tracing the contacts of infected people and gradually imposing greater travel restrictions. The Asian financial hub’s early and incremental moves reduced the need for the dramatic city-wide lockdowns that eventually came to places such as New York.

Amid last week’s looming deadline, residents arriving in Hong Kong from abroad pushed Hong Kong’s daily tally of new confirmed cases to 48, the highest since the outbreak began.

Hong Kong reported 39 new cases Monday, bringing the city’s total to 356 cases. That’s still fewer than Singapore, which had initially won praise for its effective containment measures.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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