Social distancing and anti-epidemic measures to be extended for another 7 days till 1st Oct (Updated: 10.36am)

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22nd September 2020 – (Hong Kong) Chief Executive Carrie Lam held a media briefing this morning and announced that all the existing social distancing and anti-epidemic measures will be extended for another 7 days to 1st October after the expiration on Thursday with no major changes in the details.

The third wave of the COVID-19 epidemic continued to ease. The Hong Kong government further relaxed social distancing measures last week, including reopening bars, swimming pools, theme parks, etc., and extended the daily dining time of catering premises to 11:59 pm. The measures were valid for 7 days until this Thursday (24th), the ban on gatherings of 4 people above and the regulation of no more than 4 people per table in restaurants remain unchanged.

Carrie Lam said that from 15th to 21st September, there were 67 confirmed cases of which 2/3 were imported, indicating that the third wave of locally confirmed cases has been reduced. She emphasised that all imported cases were discovered upon arrival and they have not spread in the community. As for the cases of unknown origin, there were only 7 cases and it was not of great concern.

She said that although the epidemic continues to ease, there are still invisible carriers in the community. The public should not relax, especially as the resumption of classes in phases will begin tomorrow. She thanked principals, teachers and staff for their extensive preparation work. The Education Bureau will provide support to schools, including provision of masks.

Lam pointed out that since late August, the epidemic prevention measures were gradually relaxed. Until the fourth stage of last Tuesday, most of the premises have been reopened. However, the public and business operators are urged to exercise self-discipline and strictly abide by the guidelines. The relevant departments will also strengthen law enforcement. She also mentioned that last week it has been predicted that the measures will be difficult to be relaxed again within a week, so the government has decided to extend the current measures on Friday, that is, from 25th September to 1st October, and the Food and Health Bureau will announce the details tomorrow.

Lam stated that the government has strengthened strict control over imported cases. Since the end of March, all non-Hong Kong residents, except for a few exempted persons, will not be allowed to enter Hong Kong by air. Therefore, the imported cases are basically all Hong Kong residents, but she emphasised that no Hong Kong residents will be denied entry because the Basic Law guarantees freedom of entry and exit. However, the government has adopted multiple measures to ensure that that there is no leakage.

The first is to require people arriving in Hong Kong to be tested in the restricted area and to be released only until the results are available. Those who are negative must also complete the 14-day compulsory quarantine. The second is that for those arriving in Hong Kong from designated areas with higher risks, they must first provide a negative test certificate within 72 hours and confirmation of booking of a hotel in Hong Kong for compulsory quarantine, otherwise, they will be denied boarding. The 10 designated countries include Indonesia, India and the United States. Third, the government has implemented a “fuse mechanism” whereby if there are 5 or more passengers on a flight who are diagnosed after arriving in Hong Kong, or if two consecutive passenger planes arrive at Hong Kong from the same location with 3 infected passengers on each flight, the flight will be banned for 14 days. The Department of Health has activated the relevant mechanism three times in the past.

Regarding the 12 Hong Kong residents detained in Shenzhen, Lam emphasised that this is not a matter of negotiation between the two places, because they broke the law in the jurisdiction of the Mainland. It is still unknown how the Mainland will handle the case. She emphasised that they will return to Hong Kong in future in accordance with usual practice. Since 2008, more than 2,000 similar cases have taken place. There were Hong Kong residents who were transferred back to Hong Kong after completing their custodial sentence in the Mainland. The Hong Kong government will treat them equally and the Immigration Department and the police will follow up. The Immigration Department and the Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong also contacted the families of 12 Hong Kong residents to see if they could help. According to discussion with the Director of Immigration yesterday, the family members of 12 people have already sought help from the Immigration Department, and the government will continue to pay attention.

Regarding the case of Chan Tong-kai, Lam said that because the other party has already served his sentence in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong government has no basis to follow up on the matter. She thinks it will be necessary to arrange for Chan to return to Taiwan to surrender when the time is right.

Regarding the resignation of non-permanent judge  James Spigelman of the Court of Final Appeal, Lam said that according to the arrangement of the Hong Kong courts, the Court of Final Appeal will continue to invite judges from other common law jurisdictions to be appointed. James’ letter of resignation did not mention the reason for his resignation. She would not speculate, and would only publish the gazette as usual. However, she pointed out that she would of course pay attention to the perception of the public. Therefore, the government issued a long press bulletin on 19th September, emphasising that common law and judicial independence are the cornerstones of Hong Kong’s success. The constitutional arrangements and the National Security Law will not affect judicial independence.

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