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Hong Kong reports 42 new COVID-19 infections, social distancing measures to be tightened

Hong Kong reports 42 new COVID-19 infections, social distancing measures to be tightened

FILE PHOTO: People wearing masks to avoid the spread of COVID-19 ride bicycles at a park in Hong Kong. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong reported 42 new coronavirus cases on Thursday (Jul 9), of which 34 were locally transmitted, marking the second consecutive day of a jump in local infections and fuelling fears of renewed community spread.

The total number of cases in the global financial hub since late January now stands at 1,366. Seven people have died.

Of the 34 local transmissions reported on Thursday, 23 were from an elderly home, said local authorities.

Authorities also announced on Thursday that social distancing measures will be tightened to combat the fresh outbreaks.

"Now that the pandemic is coming back, I appeal to everyone to reduce outings, gatherings and dining together," health minister Sophia Chan told reporters.

Authorities announced a reintroduction of limits to how many people can gather together, a repeat of measures taken earlier in the year that helped stifle the coronavirus outbreak.

A maximum of eight people can sit together at restaurants while bars, pubs and nightclubs are capped at four people per table.

Catering businesses can only operate at 60 per cent of their usual capacity. Gyms and karaoke lounges must have no more than 16 people in each room or facility.

Hong Kong was one of the first places to be struck by the coronavirus earlier this year after it burst out of central China. 

Despite this, authorities made impressive headway against the disease, helped by a population with previous experience of outbreaks who readily adopted facemasks and social distancing.

However, the new outbreak shows the stubborn resilience of the coronavirus, even in a city with a strong record of stopping its spread.

New infection clusters started to emerge in the past two days, including at an elderly care home that reported at least 32 cases.

At least 12 new infections in the last five days have been classified as unknown in origin, meaning authorities are struggling to work out how the disease is spreading in those instances.

Last month, Hong Kong relaxed its social distancing rules to allow public gatherings of up to 50 people, reopen theme parks and scrap customer restrictions for restaurants.

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Source: Reuters/afp/lk/ga

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