Hong Kong says virus checks could be tightened

HONG KONG (AP) — Strict virus controls that prohibit public gatherings in Hong Kong of more than two people could be tightened to stop a spike in infections, the territory’s top health official said on Sunday, as 14 deaths and more than 6,000 new cases have been reported.

Health Secretary Sophia Chan, speaking on a radio show, gave no details of any further restrictions and called on the public to stay at home.

Hong Kong has already been operating under its strictest restrictions on travel, business and public activities since the start of the pandemic. In place since February 10, they also prohibit gatherings of more than two households. Restaurants, hair salons and religious sites have been closed.

The territory had 6,067 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours. That was close to Thursday’s 6,116 cases, its highest daily total yet.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said last week that the rapid spread of the omicron variant was overwhelming hospitals in Hong Kong. The government said on Thursday that 90% of hospital beds were filled.

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

Also on Sunday, the government said Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing would work from home after his driver received a preliminary positive test result for the virus. Wong tested negative but he and his driver will undergo further testing.

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