Hong Kong restaurant (stock image)

Hong Kong government has announced sweeping rollbacks on social distancing rules to fight alarming third wave, including banning dine-in at restaurants and closure of bars.

UPDATED: Hong Kong government has announced extension of the dine-in ban for another week until July 28.

Hong Kong government has adopted the most dramatic measures yet after the city experienced its most alarming coronavirus outbreak, including banning dine-in at restaurants and limiting public gathering to only four people to slow down virus spread.

The measures as announced by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Monday night came at a time when Hong Kong saw what local health experts called “most severe” outbreak that recorded over 200 cases in the past few days, with many from unknown sources.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Lam speaking at the press conference said that 12 different types of venues will be ordered to close including bars and gyms for up to seven days. The new rules will come into effect on July 15.

Hong Kong government announced the new rules at a press conference on Monday at 8pm (Photo source: gov.hk)

To curb the virus spread, no dine-in will be allowed at restaurants from 6pm to 5am the next day, while lunch services will still be allowed but each table can only be seated up to four people.

Additionally, the number of people attending public gatherings is capped at four, a significant rollback from 50. This will likely deal a blow to the city’s wine events such as wine tastings, masterclasses and wine education classes.

The government also announced mandatory mask-wearing for passengers when taking public transportation. Offenders will be subject to HK$5,000 fine.

The new social distancing rules came following HKU dean of medical school’s warning that the virus seems to have mutated and is spreading 31% faster than before citing international journals.

Dr Yuen Kwok-yung, a leading virologist advising Hong Kong government, complained earlier that Hong Kong is not doing enough testing and tracing. Currently Hong Kong is only testing 4,000 to 5,000 people a day for a city of close to 8 million people, according to Yuen.

The government in the press conference pledged to ramp up testing and might ask help from mainland to provide free testing at a larger scale.

Between July 5 and 12, there were 249 confirmed cases, half of which are local cases. On July 13, the city added another 52 cases.

In many other parts of the world, countries and cities are experiencing second and third wave infection, after relaxing social distancing rules. California also significantly rolled back social distancing rules and moved to shut bars and indoor dining this week after seeing a surge.

Global infections has hit 13 million, with more than 570,000 dead as of July 14.

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