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Hong Kong expanded a partial lockdown and tightened pandemic restrictions wgw

Hong Kong expanded a partial lockdown and tightened pandemic restrictions Tuesday after more than 200 cases of COVID-19 were discovered at a public housing estate.

Hong Kong has already suspended many overseas flights and requires arrivals be quarantined, similar to mainland China’s “zero-tolerance” approach to the virus that has placed millions under lockdowns and mandates mask wearing, rigorous case tracing and mass testing.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said a second residential block at the Kwai Chung housing complex would be locked down for five days. The block where the virus was first discovered is already under lockdown, which will now be extended from five to seven days.

The measures aimed to “play safe protecting the residents as well as preventing the spread of the virus,” Lam told reporters.

Schools have been closed and restaurants cannot offer in-house dining after 6 p.m. in a return to previous measures to contain surges in cases. Compulsory testing has been ordered on people who reside in or visited buildings where the virus was detected.

The outbreak has also prompted the city of Shenzhen just across the border in mainland China to tighten rules on people arriving from Hong Kong. Starting from Wednesday, Hong Kong travelers will need to show a negative COVID-19 test result obtained over the previous 24 hours, undergo 14 days of quarantine at a government-designated location and seven further days of isolation at home.

Lam also criticized one of her senior Cabinet members, Home Affairs Secretary Casper Tsui, who was among several government officials suspended from duty and ordered into quarantine after they attended a birthday party where two guests later tested positive for coronavirus.

“The Secretary for Home Affairs is an official whom we will have to look into very deeply because of various aspects,” Lam said.

As with mainland China, Hong Kong’s tough anti-pandemic rules have helped keep case numbers relatively low, but are also taking a toll on the economy and public patience.

An international center of finance and trade, the city has a prominent expatriate population, some of whom are beginning to chafe at the travel controls and other restrictions.

A survey released this month by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong showed more than 40% of members surveyed were more likely to leave because of the restrictions.

South Korea recorded more than 8,000 new coronavirus infections for the first time Tuesday as health authorities reshape the country’s pandemic response to address a surge driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.

The 8,571 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency followed three straight days exceeding 7,000. With omicron spreading more than twice as fast as the delta strain that cause the last surge, experts say new cases may exceed 10,000 this week and possibly 20,000 after the Lunar New Year’s holiday break that begins this weekend and continues to next Wednesday.

To prevent a sudden explosion of infections from overwhelming hospitals and disrupting workplaces and essential services, South Korea will reduce quarantine periods, expand testing and treat more people at home.

From Wednesday, the quarantine periods for people who test positive after being fully vaccinated will be reduced from the current 10 days to seven days. Fully vaccinated people who comes in close contact with virus carriers won’t be placed under quarantine. Officials are also planning to treat a larger number of mild or moderate cases at home and expand the use of rapid antigen tests to detect more infections sooner.

Park Hyang, a senior Health Ministry official, pleaded people to stay home during the upcoming holidays and get vaccinated if they haven’t already. While those who aren’t fully vaccinated account for less than 7% of South Koreans who are 12 years or older, these people have accounted for about 60% of serious cases and deaths in the past eight weeks, Park said during a briefing.

“While infections are increasing, cases among people in their 60s or older, who are at higher risk of serious illness and death, have so far remained at a low level,” Park said. “We believe this is because the rate of people in that age group who received booster shots has now rose to 84.9%.”

Omicron has become the dominant variant in many countries and more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had COVID-19 previously. But vaccination and booster shots still provide strong protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.

More than 85% of South Korea’s more than 51 million people have been fully vaccinated. The KDCA said 50.1% of the population have been administered booster shots as of Tuesday afternoon.

Omicron has become the dominant variant in many countries and more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had COVID-19 previously. But vaccination and booster shots still provide strong protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.

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