Hong Kong leader disappointed with big party officials

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HONG KONG (AP) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Thursday said she was disappointed nine government officials attended a big birthday party that raised fears of a new omicron cluster after a guest tested positive for the coronavirus.

At least one official who was a guest, Home Secretary Caspar Tsui, will be quarantined at a government facility after being designated as a close contact of the COVID-19 patient.

Lam said authorities are still investigating whether the other eight officials would be classified as close contacts.

“I must say I am disappointed. We have made all our efforts to fight the epidemic, ”Lam said. “As senior government officials, we have all the more reason to set a good example and avoid attending private gatherings which can present a major danger. “

Over the past week, Hong Kong has locked down several residential buildings and tested thousands after omicron clusters emerged in the city, many of which are linked to several Cathay Pacific crew members who broke the rules of ‘isolation and dined in restaurants and bars before testing positive for the omicron variant.

Local media, including the South China Morning Post, reported that the party was held at a restaurant on January 3. Zoned.

Other officials at the party included Hong Kong Police Chief Raymond Siu, according to Lam.

In developments elsewhere in Asia:

THAILAND:

Thailand on Thursday reported its biggest peak in coronavirus cases in weeks after a holiday period in which people traveled and gathered in large numbers amid the rapid spread of the omicron variant.

Authorities registered 5,775 new cases, prompting the public health ministry to raise the official warning level to 4 on a scale of 5, Permanent Secretary Kiatiphume Wongrajit said. The alert level had been at 3 since the end of December.

At Level 4, the ministry recommends closing high-risk sites, including those with poor ventilation, increasing restrictions on interprovincial travel, limiting group sizes in public places, and extending quarantine requirements for travelers entering Thailand.

The ministry has submitted a proposal to the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, to increase virus restrictions due to the increase in the number of cases. The CCSA is due to meet on Friday and is expected to make a decision on the new measures.

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VIETNAM

Vietnam continues to ease virus restrictions in some major cities despite more than 10,000 new cases reported in the country every day in recent weeks.

Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s largest metropolis, authorized the reopening of entertainment venues, including bars and karaoke lounges on Wednesday. They had previously been closed in an attempt to curb the epidemic.

In Hanoi, non-essential businesses are still to be closed, with the capital leading the country with more than 2,000 new cases a day.

Despite the growing number of new infections, hospitalization rates have not increased. According to the Ministry of Health, 84% of recent deaths from the virus have occurred in unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people.

After a slow start, 97% of adults are now fully vaccinated with two injections. Vietnam is speeding up immunizations for children to ensure schools can reopen safely. Nationally, 72% of the country’s 98 million people have been vaccinated.

Boosters were also administered to frontline medical staff and people over 55 years of age. Some 7.5 million recalls have been administered, the ministry said.

Vietnam has resumed international air travel and further relaxed quarantine rules for people entering the country. The latest regulations require fully vaccinated travelers to be quarantined for three days. Those who are not vaccinated must self-quarantine for seven days.

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CHINESE BORDER ZONES

COVID-19 has caused significant disruption in trade along China’s borders with its neighbors in Southeast Asia, particularly with the country’s prevention regime targeting food, especially food. perishables such as tropical fruits and frozen products, especially fish and shrimp.

State media report that the port of Longbang, in China’s Guangxi region along the border with Vietnam, has suspended imports of chilled food and other staples since December 25. The Chinese side offered ways to improve the situation, but it was not clear how they would be implemented.

Trade in goods such as electronics, housewares and chemicals that are transported in sea containers does not appear to be affected, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a trade agreement that entered into force on January 1, is expected to boost this trade. .

The situation is as bad or worse along the Sino-Myanmar border, where rotten watermelons and other fruits have been thrown away by truckers unable to get their produce to China.

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PHILIPPINES

The Philippines reported 17,220 new infections on Thursday, up from 10,775 a day earlier, the health ministry said, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 2,888,917.

The test positivity rate also hit a record 36.9%, down from 31.7% on Wednesday, according to department data. That means more than one in three people tested that day have been infected, after the rate fell from less than 1% just two weeks ago. The country reported 81 deaths on Thursday.

Officials say they suspect local transmission of the highly contagious omicron variant is behind the current spike in cases.

The government has imposed tougher COVID-19 measures in the region around Manila and in three neighboring provinces, putting them below Level 3 of the five-step alert system until January 15. A fourth province will be below the same level from Friday.

Under Level 3, prohibited activities include in-person lessons, live singing and wind instrument events, contact sports, and fairs. Casino operations and residential gatherings of people who do not belong to the same household are also not allowed. Restaurants, gyms, hair salons and other establishments can operate at 30% of their capacity indoors for fully vaccinated customers and at 50% outdoors.

A council of mayors in the capital region has also banned unvaccinated people from leaving their homes except for essential travel. Cabinet officials leading the country’s response to COVID-19 said they recommended the policy be extended to cover the rest of the country.


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