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Hong Kong bans foreign travellers, alcohol sales

Carrie Lam

Hong Kong, March 23 (UITV/IANS)- Hong Kong will halt all foreign tourist and transit arrivals to the city from Wednesday and ban the sale of alcohol at more than 8,000 bars and restaurants to contain the spread of the coronavirus, after a sudden spike in cases, with the majority of them imported.

Making the announcement at a press conference on Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the ban on foreign arrivals would last 14 days, reports the South China Morning Post.

From Wednesday morning, all non-Hong Kong residents who arrive at the airport will be barred entry, along with anyone from mainland China, Macau or Taiwan who has a recent travel history elsewhere.

Those arriving from Macau or Taiwan directly will be allowed in, but subject to quarantine orders, as has been the case for mainland arrivals for some weeks.

Lam said the government would amend the law to forbid 8,600 restaurants, bars and clubs that hold a liquor licence to sell alcohol.

She did not give a targeted effective date.

Explaining the reason behind the drinking crackdown, she said: "In restaurants, meals can still be served (without alcohol)... But in bars, people sometimes get intimate after drinking, and this will raise the risk of cross-infection."

As of Monday morning, nine confirmed COVID-19 patients were known to have visited bars and restaurants in Hong Kong's famed nightlife district of Lan Kwai Fong, the South China Morning Post quoted the Centre for Health Protection as saying.

Lam also announced tougher penalties against those who violate the mandatory quarantine orders or those under home-quarantine who remove their electronic bracelet to elude detection.

The move to ban tourists comes a day after Singapore announced it would no longer allow short-term visitors to enter from Monday, following the decision of other countries to do the same.

Lam's government had come under mounting pressure to effect a similar measure.

Hong Kong as so far reported 327 coronavirus cases with four deaths.