Global virus pandemic forces HK to impose traveler quarantine

Local | 17 Mar 2020 11:41 am

The Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced that the government will issue a red outbound travel alert for the entire world, except mainland China, Macau and Taiwan, today, as the new coronavirus global pandemic causes more infections, RTHK reports.

From Thursday, people coming in from all other places, even if they are SAR residents, will be quarantined at home for 14 days. Close contacts of confirmed cases will be sent to quarantine centers.

Since February 8, visitors and locals arriving from the mainland have already needed to undergo self-quarantine. So that leaves only people arriving from Macau or Taiwan exempt from the quarantine regulation.

Lam urged all Hong Kong residents to avoid non-essential travel, as she said that the new quarantine arrangements and medical surveillance will make sure "that previous efforts won't go to waste".

It is the most drastic step yet by the government to contain the coronavirus in Hong Kong. There are 156 confirmed cases at the moment.

Speaking ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam noted that in the past week 90 percent of the 57 confirmed coronavirus cases were either imported, or close contacts of people who brought the illness into the city with them.

She said the government hasn't opted for a total entry ban of non-residents because it could give rise to other problems.

“I think it’s a bit too drastic to go into that total banning, because we have to understand that there are always some very genuine and compassionate cases … that despite a 14-day quarantine, they need to come into Hong Kong,” Lam said.

“While we are still in the pandemic situation, we have to allow the city to continue, business to resume, otherwise we may have more problems on the economic front.”

The CE said as more people will undergo home quarantine, she appealed to people to have self-discipline to protect themselves and Hong Kong from a major outbreak.

“Since we have been doing quite well in the last two months we really should preserve this result through joint-effort,” she said.

Lam also said it will be impossible for schools to fully resume on April 20 because of the global situation, and the plan to reopen them in phases means younger children could have many more weeks at home.

“The chances for the very young kids to go back to school within the next one or two months will be quite slim,” she said.

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