Coronavirus: Hong Kong bans gatherings of more than two people after spike in cases

Hong Kong has banned gatherings of more than two people as countries across the world try to control new coronavirus outbreaks.

The Chinese territory has also banned restaurant dining and introduced rules making it mandatory to wear masks in public places after a spike in locally-transmitted coronavirus cases over the past three weeks.

Authorities reported 145 cases on Monday, a new daily record, of which 142 were locally-transmitted cases.

The measures, which take effect from Wednesday, are the first time Hong Kong has completely banned dining in restaurants.

Chief secretary Matthew Cheung said the “situation is very worrying” as the current outbreak is the most severe the city has experienced.

Mr Cheung said the new measures will be in place for seven days.

The territory, with a population of more than seven million, had halted dine-in services from 6pm earlier in July, as concerns grew of a third wave of infections.

Authorities allowed restaurants and cafes to function through the day as normal.

More than 2,600 people have been infected with coronavirus in Hong Kong since late January, with 20 of them having died.

The measures in Hong Kong come as Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria state in Australia, said the biggest driver of new infections there is people continuing to go to work after showing symptoms.

Victoria reported a record 532 cases on Monday.

Melbourne, the biggest city in the state, is almost halfway through a six-week lockdown aimed at curbing community spread of the virus.

Mr Andrews said: “This is what is driving these numbers up and the lockdown will not end until people stop going to work with symptoms and instead go and get tested.”

Australia is among many nations in the Asia-Pacific where foreign travellers are essentially banned or, when allowed to enter, required to submit to tests and strict quarantines.

At the same time, some countries that have let limited international travel resume are reconsidering as clusters of cases grow into new outbreaks.

Some European nations were warning citizens not to visit Spain after some of its most beloved summer venues turned into coronavirus hotspots facing renewed pandemic lockdowns.

One of South Korea’s recent new cases was a traveller who arrived last week from New Zealand, which has not had a community-transmitted case in three months.

Any proof the passenger caught the virus while in New Zealand would come as a big shock to the island nation of five million people.

New Zealand health authorities said they will trace and test people who came into contact with the traveller and are also asking that the traveller be retested.

New Zealand officials said their South Korean counterparts suspect the traveller was infected while transiting through Singapore.

“We have got our contact tracing system kicking into gear though,” health minister Chris Hipkins said.

In other developments:

  • South Africa logged 11,000 new cases and has the fifth largest caseload in the world at more than 445,000
  • India added three new facilities to ramp up testing capacity as it recorded nearly 50,000 fresh virus cases. Its tally of more than 1.4 million is the world’s third-highest after the United States and Brazil
  • Pakistan reported its lowest daily death toll of 20 since mid-June in the past 24 hours

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