Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says city to extend social distancing rules

HONG KONG (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday (Jan 19) that the government will extend social distancing measures due to expire this week as the city remains on heightened alert.

The announcement for extension comes as the number of Covid-19 infections climbed back into triple digits.

Mrs Lam, speaking at a weekly press briefing, said the government would reveal details later in the day.

On Monday, Hong Kong reported 107 new cases of coronavirus, the highest number in nearly a month, fuelling concern over a new wave of infections in the densely populated city where businesses are already reeling from restrictions.

Despite almost two months of social distancing, the city’s infection curve appears to be ticking back up after mass testing was conducted among some housing estates.

Hong Kong has reported a cumulative 9,664 Covid-19 cases so far, with 163 deaths.

On Monday, a panel of experts said they have recommended that Hong Kong approve the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use, clearing the way for a regulatory greenlight as the city tries to stamp out a winter outbreak that appears to be worsening.

It is the first vaccine on track for approval in the Asian financial city, which likely means that the vulnerable groups which the government has prioritised, such as healthcare workers and the elderly, will receive this shot.

The vaccine is being marketed by Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

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But the panel also wants more information on which groups to prioritise in administering the vaccine.

After the endorsement by the 12-person vaccine advisory panel, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan will make a final decision on approving the vaccine for use. Officials said that the city’s vaccine roll-out will start around the Chinese New Year holiday, which this year begins on Feb 12.

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