HONG KONG: Hong Kong reported 43 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday (Nov 21), as authorities further tightened social distancing measures following a surge of infections in the city.
Of the new COVID-19 cases reported on Saturday, 36 were locally transmitted. Thirteen were from unknown transmission sources.
The city had reported 26 new infections on Friday.
The surge in infections has led Hong Kong and Singapore authorities to announce that the launch of an air travel bubble between the two cities would be deferred by two weeks. It was supposed to start on Sunday.
READ: Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble launch deferred for 2 weeks after COVID-19 cases spike in Hong Kong
"In the light of the recent surge of local cases, we have decided, together with the Singapore government, to defer the air travel bubble's launch by two weeks," Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said.
The travel bubble, which allows people to travel between the two cities without observing quarantine, will be revisited in early December, Mr Yau told reporters.
"Today's decision is a responsible decision," he said.
"I believe the most important thing is for any scheme to be successful, it must fulfil the conditions of securing public health and also making sure that both sides would be comfortable and feel safe about the scheme."
Following Saturday's announcement, the Hong Kong government said it is expected that the epidemic situation in the city "will still remain severe in the near future".
"If the air travel bubble is to be launched as scheduled tomorrow, chances of making immediate adjustment are high," it said in a statement on its website.
"The deferral of the inaugural flights is a suitable and responsible arrangement to minimise the inconvenience caused to the air travel bubble travellers and reduce the uncertainty in their itineraries."
LIVE PERFORMANCE, DANCING BANNED
From Sunday, live performances and dancing will not be allowed in catering premises, including bars, pubs, clubs and nightclubs. Venues that can be hired to hold social gatherings must also be closed, Hong Kong authorities said in a press release.
The restrictions take effect from Sunday for a period of five days.
"The number of confirmed local cases with unknown sources of infection has been on a rising trend recently, indicating the existence of silent transmission chains in the community," a spokesperson for Hong Kong's Food and Health Bureau said.
"In view of the latest public health risk assessment, in particular the higher risks brought about by activities conducted without wearing masks as well as various social activities as shown in recent cases, we are of the view that it is now necessary to further tighten social distancing measures.
"We urge the public to stay at home as much as possible, go out less often unless necessary, and avoid dining out and unnecessary social activities."
Hong Kong has recorded more than 5,500 confirmed cases and 108 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began.