Hong Kong says anti-virus controls can be strengthened

HONG KONG (AP) – Strict anti-virus controls banning public gatherings in Hong Kong for more than two people could be stepped up to stem the rise in infections, a senior health official said Sunday as 14 deaths and more than 6,000 new cases were reported.

Speaking on the radio program, Health Minister Sofia Chan did not announce possible new restrictions and urged the population to stay at home.

Hong Kong has been operating under the strictest restrictions on travel, business and community activities since the beginning of the pandemic. As of February 10, they are also banning meetings of more than two households. Restaurants, barbershops and religious facilities were ordered to close.

There have been 6,067 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours. That was close to 6,116 cases on Thursday, which was the highest daily overall figure.

Last week, CEO Carrie Lam said the rapid spread of the omicron option had overwhelmed Hong Kong hospitals. The government said Thursday that 90% of hospital beds are full.

To ease the pressure, construction crews from mainland China will build isolation wards for 10,000 people after overcrowding in hospitals has forced patients to wait outside in the winter frosts.

Also Sunday, the government said Environment Minister Wong Kam-sing would be working from home after his driver received a preliminary positive virus test. Wong’s test was negative, but he and his driver will pass additional testing.

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