Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, announced Wednesday that most of the city’s beaches will be closed after photographs of locals without masks enjoying the sun and surf generated uproar in mainland China.
The laws are in addition to Hong Kong’s existing rigorous distancing measures, which include wearing masks while trekking and prohibiting groups of more than two people from congregating.
“As we witness a surge of people heading to the beach,” Lam told reporters, “we must take appropriate actions to preserve our system, to minimize public movements to ensure safety.”
The beaches will be taped off starting Thursday, according to authorities.
Lam’s declaration comes in the wake of outrage on Chinese social media, with many blaming Hong Kong’s slow epidemic response for the spread of COVID-19 on the mainland.
The city has not gone into complete lockdown despite the fact that it has registered roughly 750,000 cases in less than three months.
But, as Beijing tries to preserve its “dynamic zero” COVID-19 strategy, tens of millions in mainland China were abruptly placed under stay-at-home orders this week, following the appearance of more than 3,000 daily new cases.
After an Omicron flare-up in factories and districts related to Hong Kong, Shenzhen, a city of 17 million people, was shut down on Monday.
“How can they go to the beach and be so carefree while Shenzhen is under siege?” On Weibo, one user said, “So selfish.”
Another added, “Everyone in Guangdong province is sobbing because of what Hong Kong has done.”
Researchers think that the infection rate in Hong Kong is much higher than official numbers, with half of the city’s 7.4 million people infected.
With the mounting fatalities of a predominantly unvaccinated senior population and confused messaging regarding lockdown and mass testing, the city’s chief executive has drawn heat from all sides for her handling of the issue.
Lam, whose job is up for grabs in a few months, has yet to indicate if she will seek re-election.
The selection procedure was originally slated for March, but due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, it was pushed out to May.
Any additional postponement would be at Beijing’s discretion, according to Lam.