According to Hong Kong city leader, Carrie Lam, the city is facing a large-scale outbreak of Covid-19 that could lead to the collapse of the hospital system.
Less than a month ago, Hong Kong was averaging only 10 new cases of the coronavirus a day. Now, they are regularly reporting over 100 and, according to Carrie Lam, the city is "on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak".
This "may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially the elderly," she went on to say, calling on residents to adhere "strictly to social distancing measures and stay at home as far as possible".
On Wednesday, Hong Kong mandated face masks and closed dine-in restaurants, joining bars, gyms and beauty parlours that have already been shut down.
Speaking to the Global Times, professor Jin Dongyan from the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, said that the strain of coronavirus detected in the city may be from Europe or the US. He suggested that "patients from overseas may have brought the virus to communities which resulted in the current local transmission," and that "flaws in border procedures in Hong Kong" were to blame.
According to the BBC, local scientists are scared that, because the virus hasn't mutated for at least 22 days, that it "could have adapted well to humans, becoming easier to transmit".
As of Wednesday, Hong Kong has recorded 3,002 cases with 24 deaths. Public hospitals are reporting 78% occupancy of isolation beds, while an exhibition centre is currently being transformed into a temporary hospital. This centre will open on Saturday and be available for patients with mild symptoms.
The latest outbreak comes as Hong Kong's Legislative Council are getting ready for elections on 6 September. But News outlets HK01, Hong Kong Economic Times and TVB have said that the government have postponed them for a year.
However, opposition parties have suggested this postponement is a way to divert attention from the new national security law. This new law will criminalise acts of "secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion", which they say is a way for Beijing to take control of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has been a special administrative region of mainland China since 1997 when the British left. This bill is seen by the public as a way to restrict their freedom of speech.`
Image: Hong Kong Leader, Carrie Lam (Newsweek)