The city has mandated face masks, banned dine-in services at restaurants and public gatherings of more than two people as cases continue to rise. Gyms, bars and salons have also been closed.
“We are on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak, which may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially of the elderly,” Lam said in a video statement late Tuesday.
While the city had an average of under 10 new cases each day less than a month ago and was able to avoid a lockdown due to restrictions on travel from China and contact tracing, health officials reported a record 145 cases Monday and 106 Tuesday. The city now frequently reports more than 100 cases per day, according to BBC News.
“I appeal to you to follow strictly the social distancing measures and stay at home as far as possible,” Lam added. “If we stand united and work together, we can suppress this epidemic again.” She added the Central Government is working to help Hong Kong enhance its testing capabilities.
The rise in cases has coincided with the easing of social distancing restrictions. Jin Dongyan, a University of Hong Kong professor, speculated “border procedures” led to the spike in cases.
"It's probably because there were some flaws in border procedures in Hong Kong, and some patients from overseas may have brought the virus to communities which resulted in the current local transmission," Jin told the Global Times earlier this month.