Bracelets forall arrivals

Top News | Sophie Hui 19 Mar 2020

Electronic bracelets will be distributed to everyone arriving in Hong Kong from overseas countries today and they all must go through a 14-day quarantine, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said.

Health authorities will randomly hand out bottles to collect saliva of arriving travelers at the airport. They are also studying the possibility of diverting arrivals to North Lantau Hospital and AsiaWorld-Expo.

That comes in the wake of Hong Kong from 12am today imposing a mandatory quarantine on all arrivals, including students, SAR residents and tourists, who have been to all overseas countries in the past 14 days.

The government yesterday gazetted the quarantine arrangement in The Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation, which will stay in effect for three months.

Contravening the quarantine requirement would be a criminal offense and would be subject to a maximum fine of HK$25,000 and six months in jail. Crew members, government and monetary authorities' officials are among people who are exempted.

Wong Ka-hing, controller of the Centre for Health Protection, said while specimen bottles would be handed to arrivals at the airport to collect a deep throat saliva specimen for a virus test authorities did not require it to be done there and then. That could cause holdups, Wong said, so arrivals would take the bottles away with them to provide a sample and then have family or friends return the specimens to a Department of Health clinic.

And Executive Council member Lam Ching-choi said officials would not rule out banning foreigners arriving from specific regions from entering Hong Kong.

"But based on our experience every time there is mandatory quarantine foreigners generally will not come," he said.

Lam also noted that Hong Kong has seen two waves of coronavirus infections - from Hubei province and then from the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan. Imported cases, he warned, could trigger a third and the biggest wave yet.

"This group of people will pose the highest risk to public health even if we're going to home quarantine them because of infecting family members," he said.

So Lam pushed for people to be quarantined in hotels rather than homes. Alternatively, family members could stay in hotels.

And University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung repeated a call to ban entries of non-Hong Kong residents altogether as more than 40 countries and regions have done.

Meanwhile, yesterday saw many students returning from Britain landing at the Chek Lap Kok airport.

A mother said she spent HK$50,000 to get her son a business-class ticket so he could return before the mandatory quarantine measure took effect.

Despite not being required to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine, some said they would isolate themselves voluntarily.

sophie.hui@singtaonewscorp.com

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