Hong Kong yesterday said it was stopping all tourist arrivals and transit passengers, including those from Taiwan, at its airport as of midnight tonight, as global emergency efforts to slow the COVID-19 pandemic ratcheted up around the world, with the death toll topping15,000 and more than 1 billion people being confined to their homes.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) announced a raft of measures designed to stop the upward trend of cases in the territory.
“From midnight of March 25, all non-Hong Kong residents flying in from overseas will not be allowed into the city,” she said, adding that the order would be in place for at least two weeks.
The airport would also bar all transit passengers, Lam said.
Non-residents would still be allowed to enter Hong Kong from the Chinese mainland, Macau and Taiwan, but not if they have been to any other foreign country in the past 14 days.
The government was also planning to curb the sale of alcohol at more than 8,000 bars and restaurants, she said.
An emotional Lam said many people took off their masks in bars and “even have intimate acts when they are tipsy,” increasing the risk of cross-infection.
“So, we are going to suggest, as it requires legislative work, around 8,600 restaurants, bars and clubs with liquor licenses to temporarily suspend the sale of alcohol by amending the law,” Lam told a news conference.
“We are investigating any further measures we can do rather than a complete closure of restaurants as we know many Hong Kong residents do not cook at home and often dine out,” she said.
Alcohol would be available in supermarkets and convenience stores across the territory.
The government announced 39 new cases yesterday, 30 of which had a recent travel history, bringing its total to 357.
Four people have died of the disease in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, governments scrambling to defend their own economies against the pandemic are being urged to coordinate to ward off a long-term global recession and future waves of infections.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Secretary-General Angel Gurria said that the coordination ought to exceed both the 1930s New Deal in the US and the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe after World War II.
A global recession looks “increasingly likely” in the first half of this year,” and “we must act now to avoid a protracted recession” Gurria said in a statement.
“Only a sizeable, credible, internationally coordinated effort can deal with the immediate public health emergency, buffer the economic shock and develop a path towards recovery,” he said.
While many governments are unveiling titanic spending packages against the pandemic, there has so far been no collective action plan from organizations such as the G7 or G20.
Gurria said governments had to work together to ensure progress on the scientific front, including mass testing and vaccine research.
“Everything must be done to earn the confidence of citizens, who felt the weaknesses in our economies before all this began,” he said.
Richer governments and their central banks are raising trillions of dollars to combat COVID-19, but concerns are mounting for poorer ones.
“If South Africa can’t afford to control the virus, it will spread again. No country can afford to keep every other country banned from traveling,” Charlie Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital in London, told Agence France-Presse. “So I would argue there has to be a global financing solution to address this virus crisis.”
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