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Hong Kong bars non-residents, limits alcohol over virus

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A man (R) blows his nose while lowering his face mask, worn as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, as a woman walks down a set of stairs in Hong Kong on March 23, 2020. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

Hong Kong will ban all non-residents from entering the financial hub from midnight on Tuesday evening in a bid to halt the coronavirus, its leader said Monday, as she ordered restaurants and bars to stop serving alcohol.

Despite its proximity to the Chinese mainland, the financial hub has managed to stave off a runaway outbreak of the deadly virus partly thanks to the public overwhelmingly embracing face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.

Yet in the last two weeks, the number of cases has more than doubled to 318 infections after locals and foreign residents flooded back once the pandemic spread to Europe and North America.

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On Monday chief executive Carrie Lam announced a raft of measures designed to stymie the rising number of infections.

“From midnight of March 25, all non-Hong Kong residents flying in from overseas will not be allowed into the city,” she said, adding the order would be in place for at least two weeks.

The city’s airport — the eighth busiest in the world — would also bar all transit passengers, Lam added.

Some 8,600 restaurants and bars with a license will also be banned from selling alcohol but will, for now, be allowed to remain open.

Lam did not specify when the booze ban would be brought in, but said emergency legislation was being drafted.

Health officials had become increasingly alarmed about people gathering in large numbers in the city’s entertainment districts in recent weeks.

Last week, a slew of infections was found among patients who had all been out in Lan Kwai Fong, the city’s most famous nightclub street.

Restaurant groups had urged the government to allow them to remain open.

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