Wuhan virus: Hong Kong Disneyland says closing until further notice

Employees wearing protective masks stand outside the Hong Kong Disneyland theme park that has been closed, following the coronavirus outbreak, on Jan 26, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong's Disneyland announced it was shutting its doors on Sunday (Jan 26) until further notice over the deadly virus outbreak in the central China city of Wuhan, a day after city authorities classified the crisis as an emergency.

The park said it was taking the step to protect "the health and safety of our guests and cast members" and said refunds would be given.

Ocean Park, a rival amusement park on Hong Kong's main island, said it was also closing its doors.

On Saturday, Hong Kong classified the outbreak as an "emergency" - the city's highest warning tier - and announced ramped-up measures to reduce the risk of further infections.

The move came as city leader Carrie Lam faced criticism in some quarters over her administration's response to the crisis, including calls to halt, or limit, arrivals from the Chinese mainland where the epidemic began.

Hong Kong on Sunday confirmed its sixth case of the coronavirus, a Hong Kong man who had travelled to Wuhan and returned to Hong Kong showing fever symptoms, the South China Morning Post website reported.

The man is second Hong Konger among the six cases that have been confirmed in the city so far. More than 100 others are suspected of having the viral pneumonia.

Of those who have tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong so far, five - including the latest case - arrived via a newly built high-speed train terminal which connects with the mainland.

Lam has resisted closing the border, saying the crisis is not yet at a point where such a drastic measure is needed.

But she has announced all mainland arrivals must now sign health declaration forms.

Schools will be closed until mid-February. The city is also suspending flights and train services to Wuhan.

A series of public events, including a Chinese New Year gala and next month's marathon have also been cancelled.

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On Sunday, the nearby gambling hub of Macau announced three more cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing its total to five.

All three new cases were women who came from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic. One of the women had arrived in Macau via Hong Kong, authorities said.

The closure of Disneyland and Ocean Park will pile fresh misery on Hong Kong's tourism, leisure and retail industries which have already been battered by more than seven months of often-violent pro-democracy protests.

Ocean Park is on track to receive a HK$10.6 billion (S$1.8 billion) government bailout over grim ticket sales in recent years.

Combined with the US-China trade war fallout, the protests have helped tip Hong Kong into recession and the virus outbreak has only compounded the city's economic woes.

Shanghai's Disneyland also closed from Saturday in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Hong Kong has firsthand experience of deadly viral outbreaks.

Nearly 300 people were killed in the city by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) in 2003, a tragedy that left a profound psychological impact on one of the most densely populated places on earth.

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