HK closes borders to all foreigners

Top News | Sophie Hui 24 Mar 2020

Authorities will from tomorrow close Hong Kong's borders to nonresidents for 14 days.

So all foreigners will be banned from entering - including those in transit - Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said yesterday.

Mainlanders and visitors from Macau and Taiwan with overseas travel history will also be banned and a two-week ban on transit services at Hong Kong International Airport comes into force from tomorrow.

Hong Kong residents and nonresidents entering the SAR from Taiwan or Macau will have to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine - a rule already imposed on arrivals from the mainland and elsewhere.

Lam said a special measure will be applied to Macau residents as there are more than 1,000 Macau people waiting to return home from overseas. They will still be allowed to land at the airport but will be taken straight home by coach.

"We will have the names of these Macau residents, so upon arrival we will allow them to come in and then the Macau government will send coaches to take them back to Macau via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge," Lam said.

There will be a special immigration arrangement on spouses of Hong Kong residents on humanitarian grounds.

All arrivals from Britain, the United States and Europe must undergo a virus test involving the collection of specimens of deep throat saliva.

Asked why there had not been a ban earlier on all nonresidents entering the SAR, Lam said officials were monitoring changes in the pandemic situation before imposing new measures.

She said in two months of combating the virus officials have made decisions based on science, facts and figures, evidence and advice from a panel of experts.

"Politics or pressure are not something that come into the formula because it would be very risky to base public health decisions just because certain people demand it," she said. "The difference between Saturday and today is of course the changing circumstances, which make people more worried about imported cases coming into Hong Kong."

Lam added that mandatory measures have been effective on nonresidents as only few hundred foreigners have entered the SAR in the days since other changes took effect.

She said too that government officials have had to understand the impact of the mandatory quarantine measure on all arrivals from the world imposed last Thursday and to identify those affected by it and to see if there were alternative ways to help people such as the Macau residents wanting to return home.

On whether there will be more stringent measures, Lam said, officials are following local and overseas situations daily.

As long as a measure is necessary and suitable for Hong Kong, she added, it would be introduced without hesitation.

But Civic Party legislators Kwok Ka-ki slammed the administration for rolling out measures "bit by bit" - saying it was an ineffective way to manage the situation.

"These measures were too late," he said. "People were asking for a full border closure for more than two months, the government did not respond until now with the number of local infections and imported cases starting to surge."

He criticized Lam for "pretending" to be moved while talking about medical workers as she had earlier criticized them for going on strike to demand a full closure of the border.

Legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang hit at the administration for still allowing travelers to enter the SAR instead of completely shutting down borders.

He added that with mainland cities starting to loosen lockdown measures more cases would be imported to the SAR, which would be catastrophic.

sophie.hui@singtaonewscorp.com



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