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Hong Kong bans flights, reintroduces lockdown restrictions

Hong Kong's dining scene has again been hit with restrictions.

Hong Kong will ban flights from eight countries for two weeks from Saturday as the government battens down the city’s hatches in the face of a possible fifth wave, according to a statement made yesterday evening by Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam.

Flights from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, France, the Philippines, India and Pakistan, including transit, will be banned from January 8 to 21.

Lam also used the press briefing to announce a string of local lockdowns in a bid to contain a handful of omicron infections that have bubbled up in recent days.

Indoor dining will yet again take a hit with restaurants ordered to close between 6pm and 4am from Friday. Swimming pools, sports centres, bars, clubs and museums must also shut for two weeks.

The city’s cruise ships have also been ordered back to port. Cruise companies Dream Cruises and Royal Caribbean had been operating ‘seacation’ cruises for Hong Kong residents on board Genting Dream and Spectrum of the Seas respectively since summer 2021. Spectrum of the Seas was ordered to cut short a cruise this week when it was found that passengers were close contacts of an omicron patient. The ship had around 2,500 passengers and 1,500 staff members on board. Nine passengers were eventually sent to government quarantine at the city’s notorious Penny’s Bay facility. All other passengers and staff will undergo compulsory testing in the coming days.

Hong Kong had managed a three-month streak with no community transmission of Covid-19 but that came to an end on December 31 when a local transmission was detected.

Dozens of locations across the city have since been issued with compulsory testing notices.

Government adviser and University of Hong Kong dean of medicine told local broadcaster RTHK there could be “five to 10 invisible transmission chains” in the city, adding that there was “no time to waste”.

“We’re yet to see a fifth wave, but we’re on the verge,” said Lam. “We are worried there may be silent transmission chains in the community.”

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