Hong Kong tightens social distancing again as coronavirus cases rise

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong will tighten social distancing measures again from Wednesday amid growing worries about a third wave of coronavirus infections, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

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The government will limit group gatherings to four people -from 50 - a measure last seen during a second wave in March.

Twelve types of establishments, including gyms and gaming centres, must shut down for a week. Restaurants will only be allowed to give out takeaway after 6.00 p.m.

The Chinese-ruled city recorded 52 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, including 41 that were locally transmitted, health authorities said. Since late January, Hong Kong has reported 1,522 cases and local media reported an eighth death on Monday.

“Unless we have an effective vaccine which can be widely used in the community, we may need to co-exist with the virus for a period of time,” Lam told a news conference on Monday.

The measures were the result of a three-way tug of war between considerations related to public health, economic impact and social acceptability, she said.

Lam also said civil servants will work flexible hours and that wearing face masks will be mandatory on public transport.

Earlier on Monday, the organiser of the Hong Kong Book Fair, which draws about one million visitors annually, said the event due to start on Wednesday will be postponed to a later, unspecified date due to the coronavirus.

At least three other July fairs and expos were also postponed.

Hong Kong’s Education Bureau on Friday announced the suspension of all schools from this week.

Reporting by Donny Kwok, Yanni Chow and Carol Mang; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Alex Richardson and Angus MacSwan