On Tuesday, May 19, the government of Hong Kong extended restrictions on public gatherings put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which were due to expire on Thursday, May 21, for another two weeks until Thursday, June 4. The restrictions limit public group gatherings to a maximum of eight people; further extensions of the measures may follow. The extension of the restrictions on gatherings threatens the territory's annual vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown, due to be held on June 4. Tens of thousands gather every year to hold a candlelight vigil in commemoration of the 1989 event. Organizers of the event, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, are due to hold a meeting on Tuesday to make a decision on how they plan to proceed in light of the extension on restrictions.
The government also announced restrictions preventing karaoke bars, night clubs, and bathhouses from opening will be extended for one week from May 21, through Thursday, May 28. Religious gatherings are permitted to resume under certain safety regulations, and bars, cinemas, and gymnasiums reopened earlier in May. Restaurants have been permitted to open but must ensure that their capacity does not exceed 50 percent. In addition, a maximum of four people is allowed per table, and tables must be distanced 1.5 m (4.9 ft) apart. The government is also planning to reopen schools for senior secondary students by the end of May. The territory has also ordered civil servants to start returning to work from Monday, May 4, as authorities look towards a gradual reopening of the economy.
An existing entry ban on non-residents, including transit passengers, has been extended indefinitely as a precautionary measure. Travelers arriving from mainland China, Macau, or Taiwan are exempt from the restriction provided they have not traveled abroad in the 14 days prior but must undergo a 14-day quarantine. Authorities eased some travel restrictions as of Wednesday, April 30, specifically for arrivals from mainland China. Students, teachers, and individuals engaged in "economic activity beneficial to Hong Kong" will be permitted to enter the territory without having to undergo the 14-day quarantine period. However, such arrivals will be subject to health screening including temperature checks at the border. The quarantine requirement for general travelers from the mainland will continue until at least Sunday, June 7.
As of May 19, authorities have confirmed 1055 cases of COVID-19 in the country, as well as four associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
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