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Hong Kong closes government offices in new anti-virus curbs

Hong Kong on Monday imposed sweeping curbs to stop a fresh spike in coronavirus infections, closing government offices and swimming pools and limiting public gatherings to two people.

The announcement follows Sunday’s decision to close schools for in-person teaching the rest of the year.

The territory’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, announced 76 new confirmed cases on Monday, including nine that were untraceable. That was on top of 115 infections reported Sunday.

People wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus, walk along a street in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. (AP PhotoKin Cheung)

The upsurge is “very severe,” Lam told reporters.

“I don’t want the public to mistakenly reckon that the peak of the epidemic is over already,” she said.

Lam said government employees, except those in emergency services, would work from home. She appealed to private employers to do so as well if they could.

A couple wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus embrace on a street in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. (AP PhotoKin Cheung)

That marks the third time government employees have been told to stay home this year in an attempt to control repeated surges of the virus.

The government will take over two hotels with a total of 800 rooms for use as quarantine centers, Lam said. She said three government facilities with 600 to 700 beds that were used earlier for quarantine would be reopened.

Restaurants were ordered to limit diners to two people per table and move up mandatory closing to 10 p.m. from midnight. Gyms will be limited to two people at one time.

A woman wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, uses her computer on a street in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. (AP PhotoKin Cheung)

Fines for violations will increase, Lam said, but she gave no details.

“We are now closing everything, almost everything, except the restaurants because we are meeting the daily needs of the people, Lam said.

A woman wearing a mask to help protect herself from the coronavirus, pushes a trolley along a street in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. (AP PhotoKin Cheung)