There's no quarantine Plan B, Lam insists

Top News | Michael Shum 19 Feb 2020

There is no alternative plan to use a Fo Tan public estate as a quarantine center to house the 300 Hongkongers moved from the Princess Diamond, Carrie Lam says.

Chun Yeung Estate is the only choice and there is no plan B, she said before chairing her Executive Council meeting yesterday.

"This is absolutely essential because at the moment the four centers that we have in total provide only about 150 places," Lam said.

"The passengers require compulsory quarantine in a center which is guarded. They could not have quarantine at home because of the risk involved. So I hope residents around will accept this arrangement which is of benefit to the whole of society."

Undersecretary for Food and Health Chui Tak-yi said the four existing isolation facilities are already 90 percent occupied.

"There's definitely not enough space to cater to some 300 people returning from the cruise. There is a justified exigency to use Chun Yeung Estate as a quarantine center," he said.

Chui also admitted it was a rush decision to make Chun Yeung Estate a quarantine center and hence there has been insufficient communication with citizens.

But he said: "We've met with district councilors multiple times and explained to them. We think the area is rather far away from existing residents in the vicinity."

A heavy police presence was seen early yesterday at the Chun Yeung Estate while its entrance was cordoned off with plastic barriers.

All staff and vehicles that wish to enter the estate would have to register at the entrance, and police road blocks could be seen on Wong Chuk Yeung Street nearby.

Chun Yeung Estate is only a few hundred meters away from other houses on the hillside, providing nearly 5,000 public housing flats, and is yet to house residents.

Meanwhile, Ho Pak-leung, head of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Infection, warned on a radio program that as many as 100 passengers to be quarantined could be infected.

Ho said that the number of confirmed cases showed that the infection rate has reached 25 percent, exceeding the infection rate in Amoy Garden during the outbreak of SARS in 2003.

"Another point to note is that there are as many as 70 'invisible patients' on the cruise, who show no symptoms, combined with the fact that there are new confirmed cases every day. The cruise liner is definitely an infected area," he said.

Ho also slammed the Japanese authorities for only starting quarantine procedures two days after a dozen people were confirmed to be infected with Covid-19. He said that might be where the virus spread.

A growing number of scientists say the ship served as an incubator for the virus instead of a quarantine facility.

Scientists said passengers should have been removed from the beginning on February 3.

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