23 January 2019
Ko Wing-man (inset) says the chance of the virus spreading is low as long as the people taken into quarantine show no symptoms. Photos: Reuters, RTHK
Ko Wing-man (inset) says the chance of the virus spreading is low as long as the people taken into quarantine show no symptoms. Photos: Reuters, RTHK

No need to panic about MERS outbreak: HK health chief

Hong Kong has stepped up precautions after a South Korean man who entered Guangdong via the city last week, tested positive for the potentially fatal Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, Sky Post reported Monday.

Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said Sunday 18 people who had close contact with the South Korean man had been sent to a quarantine camp in Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Sai Kung.

They included two South Korean women who had earlier refused to be quarantined, Ko said.

None of them had developed symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath, he said. They will continue to be closely monitored.

Ko said Hongkongers should not worry too much about the spread of MERS, considered to be a type of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, at this stage, even though some of those in quarantine had traveled within the city.

He said the chance of the virus spreading will be low as long as those in quarantine show no MERS symptoms within the next two weeks.

The 44-year-old South Korean man arrived in Hong Kong from Incheon International Airport on Asiana Airlines flight OZ723 at 1 p.m. Tuesday. He boarded a bus and traveled to Huizhou, Guangdong province, two hours later.

He is China’s first imported MERS case.

The man is being held in isolation at a hospital in Huizhou, and his condition is reported to be worsening.

Although he had fever and a cough when arriving in Hong Kong, he did not reveal to health officers any contact history with confirmed MERS patients.

Among the 29 passengers sitting near him on the flight, 18 are still in Hong Kong.

Two South Korean women were found and taken away from Elizabeth House in Causeway Bay at about noon Sunday and forced into quarantine.

Ko said the possibility that the duo may be suffering from MERS as part of a community outbreak cannot be ruled out.

Meanwhile, a student at Pui Kiu Middle School in North Point was found to have been on the flight and has been quarantined along with one of his family members.

The school’s principal said sterilization of the school compound has been ongoing since Friday.

Starting Monday, the school has begun to take the temperature of all students before they enter the campus.

The South Korean health ministry confirmed 15 MERS cases Sunday.

Some Hongkongers have decided to cancel trips to the country this month.

One travel agency said some tour groups have switched their destination from South Korea to Japan, both of which are among Hongkongers’ favorite destinations.

Other customers are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

It is possible there will be a plunge in the number of travelers to South Korea should the number of MERS cases in the country rise into the hundreds, the agency said.

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