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Hong Kong Orders Bars to Close as it Ramps Up Social Distancing

Tables and chairs are taped up to keep social distancing at a Starbucks coffee shop, following the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Hong Kong, China April 2, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Anyone who violates the new law faces six months in jail and a fine of HK$50,000 ($6,450).

Hong Kong has ordered pubs and bars to close for two weeks from 6 p.m. Friday as the financial hub steps up social distancing restrictions and joins cities around the world in the battle to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Anyone who violates the new law faces six months in jail and a fine of HK$50,000 ($6,450).

The extraordinary move in a city that never sleeps comes a week after the government stopped all tourist arrivals and transit passengers at its airport and said it was considering suspending the sale of alcohol in some venues.

“Any premises (commonly known as bar or pub) that is exclusively or mainly used for the sale or supply of intoxicating liquors ... must be closed,” the government said in a statement late Thursday.

It added that 62 confirmed coronavirus cases in the city had been linked to bars, leading to 14 further infections, including a 40-day-old baby. Hong Kong has 802 cases of coronavirus and four deaths from the disease.

Alcohol will still be available in supermarkets and convenience stores across the Asian financial center.

Global coronavirus cases surpassed 1 million Thursday with more than 52,000 deaths as the pandemic further exploded in the United States and the death toll climbed in Spain and Italy, according to a Reuters tally of official data.