Social distancing measures extended until Oct. 22

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People practice social distancing at a restaurant in Kowloon Bay. (FILE PHOTO)

Public gatherings will stay limited to four people and masks must still be worn in public areas except when exercising rigorously, as the government extends social distancing measures until Oct. 22.

The extension of the current rules, set to expire Thursday, was announced in a statement released Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said local infections with unknown sources continue to be reported, which can signify a possible rebound of the epidemic situation.

“Although we would much prefer seeing no local cases, it would be unavoidable to have sporadic cases and clusters in the community from time to time as the virus will co-exist with us for quite a long period of time before effective treatment and vaccination become available,” the statement from the spokesperson read.

The statement also warned the public the latest strain of the COVID-19 pathogen in Hong Kong has a higher rate of transmission, so the risk of a rebound is extremely high.

“As the latest virus strain has higher transmissibility, the epidemic may worsen rapidly in a very short period of time, possibly causing the fourth wave of the local epidemic to arrive early,” the statement read.

Hong Kong has reported eight new cases today, bringing the city’s total confirmed cases to 5,202.