Coronavirus: Hong Kong sees sharp drop in visitors after mandatory quarantine

A passenger wears a protective mask as he walks through Hong Kong International Airport on Feb 7, 2020.
A passenger wears a protective mask as he walks through Hong Kong International Airport on Feb 7, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG • Hong Kong saw a sharp drop in the number of people entering the city after it introduced mandatory quarantine for those arriving from mainland China, its latest effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

As of 4pm yesterday, 8,953 people passed through the three open border points, mostly via the airport, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a press briefing. Of the total, 161 travellers were placed in mandatory quarantine because they had either travelled from the mainland or had been there during the past 14 days.

Hong Kong started a mandatory two-week quarantine for mainland arrivals yesterday as it tries to contain the novel coronavirus, which has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation.

Arrivals in the city spiked before the quarantine was implemented. The number of people who entered Hong Kong on Friday reached 95,982, a jump of about 63 per cent from Wednesday, according to figures released by the city's government. Of those, about 80 per cent were Hong Kong residents.

Mainland visitors will need to isolate themselves in hotel rooms or go to government-run centres, while returning Hong Kong residents are required to stay inside their homes. Violators could face six months in prison and a HK$25,000 (S$4,475) fine.

Hong Kong has confirmed 26 cases, while about 34,600 people have been infected with the virus in China.

Mrs Lam urged people to stay indoors to save masks. Hong Kong will increase local monthly mask production to 2.5 million, while China's State Council has helped the city secure 17 million masks, she said.

Meanwhile, employees of Hong Kong carrier Cathay Dragon have urged the company to suspend mainland China flights and are considering strikes or protests to press their demands.

Staff of the Cathay Pacific unit gathered yesterday afternoon for an extraordinary general meeting where about 89 per cent out of 467 votes supported "industrial action", said Mr Kim Lam, a representative of the Cathay Dragon's Flight Attendants Association executive committee.

 
 

Protests and strikes are among options to be discussed in the future, he said.

The call for collective action by Cathay Dragon staff follows a strike by medical personnel last week to demand more protection against the coronavirus outbreak.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 09, 2020, with the headline 'Hong Kong sees sharp drop in visitors after mandatory quarantine'. Print Edition | Subscribe