Date
25 May 2017
Hong Kong authorities have vowed to tighten checks on incoming airline passengers following the MERS outbreak in South Korea. Photo: AFP
Hong Kong authorities have vowed to tighten checks on incoming airline passengers following the MERS outbreak in South Korea. Photo: AFP

Questions raised over airport MERS inspection facilities

As concerns grow about the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) following the outbreak in South Korea, questions are being raised whether Hong Kong’s screening procedures on incoming airline passengers are effective enough.

Two Apple Daily reporters who returned to Hong Kong from a South Korea trip have said that they did not see any temperature check stations at the airport’s southwest concourse.

According to the duo, they saw the screening stations only when they arrived at the immigration counters. That was 20 minutes after they got off their flight Saturday night.

The reporters had traveled to South Korea to cover the MERS outbreak there.

Yeung Pak-ying, one of the two journalists, said he was on the lookout for temperature check stations after arriving at the Hong Kong airport, given the government’s claims of tighter screening.

Authorities said last week that planes flying into Hong Kong from South Korea would be taken to designated gates after touchdown where health inspectors would carry out checks as passengers disembarked.

But the reporter said he found that the tests were not carried out immediately after disembarking.

He and his companion, in fact, had slight fever when they arrived at the Hong Kong airport after covering the MERS story at a South Korean hospital from June 2 to June 6.

The two, who wore face masks during their assignment in Seoul, were sent to Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong for virus tests after their return.

Initial test results Sunday showed that they were not infected.

Dr. Ho Pak-leung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, agreed that there could be some loopholes in Hong Kong’s preventive measures.

If any MERS patient enters the city, there is a danger that it could lead to a large-scale outbreak here, he said.

The comments came as the Centre for Health Protection is said to be investigating two suspects, a 21-year-old woman and a 66-year-old man, both of whom were found to have fever after they traveled to Seoul in late May and early June.

The two are currently under quarantine, and their condition is believed to be stable.

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TL/AC/RC

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