Hong Kong to extend compulsory quarantine orders to more countries

A photo taken on March 5, 2020 shows a passenger with a protective face mask at the airport, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Hong Kong. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - The city's government has expanded quarantine measures amid the coronavirus outbreak around the world.

From Saturday (March 14), they will now include those who have travelled to anywhere in Italy as well as France, Germany, Spain and Japan.

In a statement issued Tuesday night, the government said that the new rule affects people travelling from the French region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and Grand Est and the La Rioja, Madrid and Pais Vasco regions in Spain.

It will also apply to those who have been to Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia region, which includes the cities of Dusseldorf and Cologne, and Hokkaido in Japan as well as anywhere in Italy in the past 14 days.

The affected travellers will be isolated in designated quarantine centres and not at home, the government said.

Local reports said the Hong Kong government is also monitoring the situation in India, though travellers from these countries will not have to undergo quarantine for now.

Travellers from South Korea, northern Italy and Iran are affected by current quarantine orders.

Since Feb 8, travellers returning from the mainland have had to be quarantined for 14 days.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday morning warned of new restrictions, with additional countries hit by the outbreak. Before a weekly Cabinet meeting, Mrs Lam said the government would announce the new measures once consulates were given notice. She also urged people to avoid travelling.

So far, Hong Kong has recorded a total of 120 confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which three patients have died, the authorities said on Tuesday.

Separately, Hong Kong's financial secretary Paul Chan on Tuesday tried to reassure markets, saying the city's stock market and banking systems could withstand fluctuations in the global economy.

The statement came after the United States stock market plummeted more than 2,000 points overnight and the Hang Seng Index plunged more than 1,700 points last Friday and Monday on jitters about the coronavirus situation and the sharp drop in oil prices.

Speaking before the weekly Cabinet meeting, Mr Chan said the government would keep an open mind on adjusting its economic forecast and rolling out further relief measures.

For the first time in 15 years, the government recorded a budget deficit of about HK$37.8 billion (S$6.7 billion) for financial year 2019/20, representing 1.3 per cent of gross domestic product. This is expected to widen to HK$139.1 billion or 4.8 per cent of GDP in the next financial year.

In 2019, the economy shrank 1.2 per cent, marking the first annual decline since the recession in 2009.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.