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The Hong Kong International Film Festival, set to have taken place in the second half of August, has been canceled.

The festival had previously rescheduled its 44th edition from its usual slot in March, due to the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak. It had set Aug 18-31 Aug. instead.

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But, with the city now facing a third wave of the virus, organizers on Friday bowed to the inevitable and announced the cancellation of HKIFF44 and the smaller Cine Fan activities in September and October.

They said that the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), one of Asia’s longest running film project markets, will go ahead as planned in virtual form. It will run Aug. 26-28.

“While it is tremendously deflating, given all the hard work that we have put in, the well-being of our colleagues and the public is of utmost importance to us. Calling of HKIFF44 is heartbreaking, but we believe we have a duty to behave with social responsibility,” said Albert Lee, executive director. “We will start working in the next edition of the festival straight away. We are determined to make up for the ‘lost’ HKIFF44.”

Last month it was announced that Hong Kong FilMart, the largest film rights market in Asia, had given up on plans to be held in physical form this year. Instead, FilMart will migrate to a virtual platform, FILMART Online, running Aug. 26-29, 2020. The problem at the time was not specific to Hong Kong, but more reflected other cities being put on lockdown, and travel difficulties among Asian territories.

Hong Kong had seemed to manage the disease well through testing, contact tracing and quarantines that stifled a first dose of coronavirus in February, and a second wave in March-April brought on by residents returning from abroad. But the city is now suffering a third wave that is more serious than either of the two earlier outbreaks.

Cinemas have been closed for nearly two weeks, restaurants and bars must close at 6pm, and mask-wearing has become compulsory on public transport and at all indoor public spaces, such as shopping malls.

The territory’s government has rejected claims that it created too many quarantine exception categories and allowed new imported cases to restart local infections. But epidemiologists Friday said that is exactly what happened and point to the genetics of the recent COVID-19 cases that consist of strains that were not previously present in the city.

To date Hong Kong has recorded 2,132 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. It has caused 16 deaths.

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