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HK suspends ports, mainland rail & ferry links, travel system

By He Shusi and Shadow Li | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-01-28 20:35
Pedestrians in Hong Kong don surgical masks to guard themselves against a pneumonia outbreak first reported in Wuhan, Jan 8, 2020. [Calvin Ng/China Daily]

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced the suspension of six immigration port services, including the high-speed rail station, and halving flights between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, in an effort to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak that started in the city of Wuhan in Central Chinas Hubei province.

Lam made the announcement at a press conference held at the Central Government Offices on Tuesday afternoon.

The central government also approved halting the Individual Visit Scheme involving 49 mainland cities to Hong Kong, Lam said.

Starting Jan 30, six out of total 14 immigration checkpoints in the city, including those at the city's high-speed rail station and Hung Hom station, will be closed. Passenger traffic at Sha Tau Kok, Man Kam To, China Ferry Terminal and Tuen Mun Ferry Pier will be suspended, Lam said. Apart from this, cross-border shuttle bus service via the Hong Kong-Macao-Zhuhai Bridge and Sha Tau Kok will be truncated, the chief executive said.

Eight people in Hong Kong have been infected so far and all trace the infection's origin to Wuhan. Most of the patients had taken the high-speed rail to reach Hong Kong.

The further-tightened measures came a day after the special administrative region's government started imposing immigration restrictions on Hubei residents and non-Hong Kong residents who visited Hubei province in the past 14 days.

At the press conference, Lam also said the government had dropped plans to use an unoccupied public estate as a quarantine site after it met with strong objection from the community.

Also, beginning Tuesday, the Hospital Authority will charge non-local residents for medical expenses incurred.

Some 200 Hong Kong residents are still in Hubei as the province remains locked down, Lam said, adding the SAR government's office in Wuhan was maintaining contact with them. She said the SAR government was in talks with the central government so that arrangements could be made to bring them back home.

Lam urged Hong Kong residents not to visit mainland cities with confirmed cases of infection, and urged all those still on the mainland to return home as soon as possible. She said upon returning to HK, such residents needed to stay home for two weeks and wear face masks if they need to go out.

According to the government, the exact number of Hubei residents in the city is still not known. She said the government is in touch with hotels to trace Hubei residents who are still in Hong Kong, and refer them to the Department of Health for appropriate action.

As Hubei residents are allowed to stay in Hong Kong for no longer than 7 days, and the SAR has already imposed visit restrictions on them, Lam said she believes the number will gradually decrease.

She also called on Hong Kong residents who have been to Hubei in the past 14 days to contact the Department of Health for advice.

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