The Government today announced that the existing social distancing measures will be extended for seven days to August 25.
The measures include the cessation of dine-in services at catering businesses from 6pm to 4.59am of the next day, the closure of scheduled premises, and the requirement of wearing a mask at all times in public places.
The Government explained that the COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong is still severe. Even though the number of daily new cases has come down from its peak in late July, it remains at a high level with the seven-day average still higher than the peak of the second wave in March and April.
Unlike the second wave, the third wave is characterised by community infections with a widespread distribution geographically and across sectors.
It is observed that the latest virus strain has higher transmissibility and its spread to elderly homes, seniors and chronic disease patients has brought about a rising mortality rate.
The occurrence of new and growing clusters in settings such as dormitories for foreign domestic helpers and a workplace for port workers suggests that the risk of an explosive community outbreak and a rebound of the epidemic situation remains considerably high.
Additionally, the high proportion of new cases with unknown infection sources, at about 40%, indicates that silent or sub-clinical transmission chains are prevalent in the community.
It is worrying that such transmission chains persist despite extensive testing, the Government said.
Noting that the public is starting to be fatigued by social distancing measures, getting impatient over the prolonged quasi-lockdowns and wishing to resume social and economic activities, the Government stressed that it is not yet the time for relaxation and there is no room for complacency in epidemic control.
It appealed to the public’s co-operation and tolerance to maintain social distancing to cut transmission chains in the community.
With the Mainland’s experience and support, the Government is taking steps to expand the testing capacity to launch universal community testing and to expand the isolation and treatment capacity by building an interim hospital alongside further community treatment facilities.
These measures will help further curtail the epidemic so that economic and social activities can resume as early as possible, as well as to help prepare for a fourth wave or a winter surge, it added.
The Government will continue to closely monitor the developments of the epidemic and review the various measures in place from time to time.