Omicron scare: Hong Kong bans inbound flights from eight international locations together with India

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HONG KONG: Hong Kong introduced a two-week ban on incoming flights from eight international locations on Wednesday and tightened native COVID-19 restrictions as authorities feared a fifth wave of coronavirus within the metropolis.

The most recent restrictions had been introduced as well being authorities scoured the town for the contacts of a COVID-19 affected person, a few of whom had been aboard a Royal Caribbean ship that was ordered to chop brief its “cruise to nowhere” and return to port.

Incoming flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Britain and the US, together with interchanges, could be banned from Jan.8 to Jan 21, Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam informed reporters on Wednesday.

Lam mentioned the federal government would ban indoor eating after 6.00 pm from Friday, and shut swimming swimming pools, sports activities centres, bars and golf equipment, museums, and different venues for at the very least two weeks. Future cruise journeys could be cancelled.

“We`re but to see a fifth wave but, however we`re on the verge,” Lam mentioned.

The worldwide finance hub has caught to a zero-Covid technique by largely isolating itself from the world and imposing a draconian and dear quarantine regime.

On Dec. 31, a streak of three months with out neighborhood instances ended with the primary native transmission of the brand new Omicron variant.

Since then, authorities have scrambled to trace down and take a look at tons of of people that had been in touch with a handful of Omicron sufferers. One affected person, nevertheless, had no identified hyperlinks, elevating fears of a big outbreak.

“We’re anxious there could also be silent transmission chains locally,” Lam mentioned. “Some confirmed instances had quite a lot of actions earlier than being conscious they obtained contaminated.”

The most recent contact tracing marketing campaign was sparked by a affected person who danced with some 20 mates in a central park on New Yr`s Eve. Two of the guy dancers, considered one of whom was a home helper, got here up optimistic in preliminary checks.

The helper`s employer and eight different of her shut contacts then went on a cruise journey on Jan. 2.

As a part of its coronavirus restrictions, Hong Kong has restricted cruises to brief journeys in close by waters, with ships requested to function at lowered capability and to solely permit vaccinated passengers who take a look at adverse for the virus.

The “Spectrum of the Seas” ship, which returned a day early, had about 2,500 passengers and 1,200 employees on board. The 9 shut contact passengers had been remoted from the remainder of the folks on board and preliminary checks taken throughout the journey returned adverse outcomes, authorities mentioned.

“Spectrum of the Seas is taking applicable measures below tips by the Division of Well being,” Royal Caribbean informed Reuters in a press release.

The 9 shut contacts had been despatched to a quarantine centre, whereas the remainder of the passengers and employees must bear a number of obligatory checks in coming days, the federal government mentioned.

Moreover, individuals who have been to dozens of locations throughout Hong Kong across the identical time because the shut contacts of current sufferers have been issued obligatory testing notices, the federal government mentioned in a separate assertion.

Victoria Park, in downtown Hong Kong, the newly-opened M+ trendy artwork museum, ferry piers, eating places, shops, clinics had been among the many locations listed.

Gabriel Leung, College of Hong Kong dean of drugs and a authorities adviser, informed public broadcaster RTHK there have been most likely “five-to-10 invisible transmission chains” within the metropolis.

“There’s no time to waste,” Leung mentioned. “We want circuit-breaker measures.”

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