Thousands flock to popular HK flower market as Lunar New Year fairs are canceled

Thousands of Hongkongers flocked to Mong Kok's flower market on Saturday after health authorities tackling an Omicron-fuelled wave of coronavirus cases abruptly canceled traditional Lunar New Year fairs, disappointing shoppers and florists alike.

In Mong Kok, Flower Market Road, known locally as fa hui, was packed as locals did their shopping 2 1/2 weeks before Lunar New Year, which begins on February 1. Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said the popular Lunar New Year fairs had to be banned as invisible transmission chains of the Omicron variant remained in the city.

"The decision to cancel the Lunar New Year fairs was a tough one," she said. "From a public health perspective, we want to control the epidemic as soon as possible so we cannot hold large gatherings." Chan also said the Home Affairs Department and police were working together to monitor crowds in Yau Tsim Mong District, where people normally flock for wholesale flowers and discount goods.

Flower markets are traditionally set up in public parks and on football pitches at Lunar New Year, with thousands of florists and festive goods vendors selling decorations and traditional food. The government announced on Friday it was canceling fairs at 15 sites because of a growing spread of infections.

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