2nd LD Writethru: Hong Kong mandates masks in indoor public areas, adds U.S. to high-risk list amid rising COVID-19 cases

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HONG KONG, July 22 (Xinhua) — China’s Hong Kong will mandate face masks in all indoor public places and add two countries including the United States to the high-risk list, as its daily increase of COVID-19 cases hit a new high on Wednesday.

Starting Thursday, people will be required to wear face masks in all indoor public areas, including shopping malls, supermarkets, building lobbies and bus terminus, Sophia Chan, secretary for food and health of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government, told a press conference on Wednesday.

The requirement will be in place for 14 days.

The measure was endorsed at a special meeting of the Executive Council, Chan said. People are currently required to wear masks on public transport, according to an anti-disease regulation.

Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection on Wednesday reported 113 new infections, hitting a new high since the COVID-19 outbreak and bringing the tally in Hong Kong to 2,132. Among the new infections, 105 were local cases, including 63 with unknown infection sources.

Many new patients were suspected of being infected in nursery homes, restaurants and markets.

Hong Kong witnessed a resurgence of COVID-19 infections over the past weeks with numerous transmission chains still unknown, which, the government said Wednesday in a statement, showed that Hong Kong is facing the highest risk of community outbreak since the first case was reported.

The government has strengthened control and preventive measures to curb the spread of the virus, including shutting down some entertainment venues and resuming restrictions over dining-in services of restaurants.

Chan said the next two weeks are crucial to Hong Kong’s anti-epidemic efforts and there could be stricter measures if the tally continues to increase.

As many areas in the world still face a grave pandemic situation, Hong Kong will add the United States and Kazakhstan to the list of high-risk areas, effective next Wednesday. Inbound visitors who have been to those places within 14 days should provide health certificates, valid for 72 hours, before boarding. There are seven other countries already on the list, including India, the Philippines and South Africa.

Related visitors should book hotels for no less than 14 days on their own and will be put under compulsory quarantine there after arriving in Hong Kong.

The HKSAR government has also decided to extend a series of regulations on anti-epidemic measures, including mandatory quarantine for inbound visitors, the prohibition of large public gatherings and closures of some entertainment venues.

According to Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority, there are currently 645 COVID-19 patients in hospital, with 29 in critical condition. Enditem

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