Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung has announced it will make wearing masks in public compulsory and limit gatherings to no more than two people as officials in the city grapple with a rising surge in coronavirus infections.
Cheung said that face masks would be mandatory in both indoor and outdoor public places from Wednesday, with offenders facing fines of up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($645), although he didn’t specify how the new measure would be enforced.
People with “reasonable excuses” such as medical conditions or children under the age of two will be exempt, he added.
Cheung also announced that the Chinese central government will help build a Wuhan-style makeshift hospital near Hong Kong’s airport with a capacity of around 2,000 hospital beds.
“The epidemic situation is critical,” Cheung said, adding that the next few weeks are extremely crucial for the city. “We are facing a high risk of community outbreak.”
The restrictions come as the city faces a coronavirus outbreak dubbed locally as its “third wave,” with the origin of many infections still unknown. Hong Kong had been lauded for its relative success in curbing the spread of the coronavirus. However, on Monday, Hong Kong authorities reported more than 100 new cases for the sixth straight day, bringing the city’s total to more than 2,700.