HONG KONG: Hong Kong announced stringent new COVID-19 restrictions and record new infections on Tuesday (Feb 8), while a shortage of vegetables added to the misery as truck drivers who tested positive for COVID-19 were unable to bring them from mainland China.
The Asian financial hub reported a record 625 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with cases likely to continue rising rapidly, authorities said. There were 2,600 infections over the past two weeks compared with just two in December.
Responding to the worrying trend, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam said public gatherings would be limited to two people from four currently, while churches and hair salons would close from Thursday, joining a slew of venues already closed.
Lam also announced a ban on private gatherings of more than two families, though it was unclear how authorities would enforce it.
“The time has come for Hong Kong to take some tough measures,” Lam told a news briefing.
“We are adopting stringent measures to protect Hong Kong.” Hong Kong’s supply of vegetables on Tuesday was around one-third of Monday’s after several cross border truck drivers, who bring in produce from mainland China, tested positive, the government said.
Shelves stocking vegetables were bare across supermarkets in the city while crowds surged into fresh markets to snap up the limited produce available. Other food remained available.
At a market in the city’s downtown Wan Chai district, a staff member from Qiandama vegetable store, shouted to crowds not to enter.
“No more veggies inside … It’s like the battlefield,” she said as people tried to charge in.
Some vegetable and fruit stalls selling mainland Chinese produce were shuttered while others were selling produce at double their usual prices.
For now, Lam said, the best option was to adhere to the “dynamic zero” strategy employed by mainland China to suppress all coronavirus outbreaks as soon as possible.
The official Chinese Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, had encouraged Hong Kong to follow China’s approach to containing the virus in an editorial on Monday.
“When vaccination rates increase, when Omicron disappears and when other things happen, we will revisit our strategy,” Lam said.