Authorities in Hong Kong will tighten the city’s lockdown measures in response to a recent surge in cases of the Chinese coronavirus, the region’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Monday.
Lam, a close ally of the Communist Party in Beijing, imposed measures that include forcing civil servants to work from home, a 10 p.m. curfew on restaurants, and the closure entirely of karaoke lounges, amusement arcades, games rooms, and concert halls. The city will suspend in-person classes until the new year at the earliest, a response to over 30 schools having students or staff who have tested positive for the virus.
The provisions impose mandatory mask-wearing and other measures on beauty and massage parlors. Businesses in operation must also display a “Leave Home” app QR code to help with contact tracing. The measures effectively ban public gatherings, as the maximum number who can attend them will be two people.
Lam also announced the establishment of a “hotline” for citizens to alert authorities on neighbors allegedly violating coronavirus protocol.
The hotline has prompted concerns that the Hong Kong government, continuing a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy dissidents that began last year in response to unprecedented protests, will use it to persecute dissidents. Lam insisted that this would not be the case in her remarks Monday.
“The government has all sorts of hotlines for members of the public to bear their civic responsibility,” Lam explained. “I hope people will not overreact. This is jointly shouldering the responsibility give as we are facing a very serious pandemic situation.”
The ban on public gatherings follows months of the effective outlawing of any pro-democracy demonstrations, the product of Beijing passing a “national security” law criminalizing activity such as “subversion of state power.” The law mandates at least ten years in prison for those found guilty. Under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the city’s constitution, laws passed by the Communist Party in Beijing cannot be imposed on the city, but Lam has nonetheless ordered police to enforce it.
A Hong Kong coronavirus patient has revealed her pet dog has a “low level” of the virus, local health authorities confirmed Friday. https://t.co/skFvCLXAd1
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) February 29, 2020
The ban on pro-democracy expression extends to events the Hong Kong government allows. Last week, police raided the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) to collect evidence after more than 100 students held a demonstration against Beijing’s continued encroachment on their freedoms during their graduation ceremony.
The new rules come after the city reported 115 cases of the virus on Sunday, the first three-figure rise since August. “I don’t want to give the wrong impression that we have passed the peak of the pandemic,” said Lam. “This wave of transmission is indeed very severe.”
According to official figures, Hong Kong has recorded 6,315 cases of the virus and 105 deaths.