HONG KONG - Hong Kong reported 149 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a daily record, including 145 that were locally transmitted, with authorities warning the global financial hub faces a critical period as it tries to contain the outbreak. Spikes in infections in Asia have dispelled any notion the region may be over the worst, with Australia and India also reporting record daily cases, Vietnam preparing to test thousands and North Korea urging vigilance. Hong Kong had reported 118 new cases on Wednesday. Since late January, more than 3,000 people have been infected in the city, 24 of whom have died. The rise in infections in the Asian financial hub comes ahead of an easing of a ban on eating at restaurants. The ban, which took effect on Wednesday, will be relaxed after only two days, starting Friday. Restaurants will be allowed to open during breakfast and lunch provided they operate at 50% capacity and ensure only two people sit at a table. The government partly reversed the ban after many workers were forced to have their meals outside on pavements under sweltering heat and rain. Restaurants will only be able to provide take away during dinner time to curb the spread of COVID-19, authorities said. Other regulations including restricting gatherings to two people and the mandating of face masks in all outdoor public areas would remain in place until at least next week. Work from home for civil servants has also been extended until Aug. 9, a week later than originally scheduled, authorities said. REUTERS
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