The government said on Wednesday that it has received official information that 10 Hong Kong people stuck in China’s central Hubei province had been infected with the novel coronavirus.
The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said it received notifications from mainland authorities and Hong Kong’s Wuhan Economic and Trade Office about the confirmed Hong Kong patient cases in Hubei, the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The patients involve three families, the Bureau said, without revealing details such as when exactly it received the notifications, or if there has been a delay in disclosure of the information.
Anticipating questions on the government’s failure to arrange chartered flights to evacuate Hong Kong people stuck in Hubei, the administration sought to explain by saying that Hubei authorities were not allowing infected people to leave.
Given the situation, it is difficult to have the 10 infected Hong Kong people returned to Hong Kong for treatment, it said.
All of the people, aged 12 to 65, have been put in local hospitals after they were confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
In a press release issued on Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman for the Bureau said seven of the 10 people were in Wuhan while the remaining three were in Enshi in southwest Hubei, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
“At present, all of them are being treated in local hospitals and are generally in stable condition,” the spokesman said.
The statement came as the Hong Kong government has been facing criticism for not taking concrete action to help the roughly 2,000 Hongkongers stuck in Hubei or find ways to bring them back to Hong Kong.
Cases of confirmed infection in Hubei involving Hongkonergs had not been disclosed before.
In response to an inquiry, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said bringing back the Hongkongers who are stuck in Hubei hinges on Hong Kong’s ability to provide sufficient quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees.
Such arrangements would involve high risk, it said, also pointing that that it is important to gain support from society for moves to bring back potentially infected people.
Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP), told media on Wednesday that it had been notified by the National Health Commission about Hongkoners contracting the Covid-19 in the mainland, but the notification was on a case-by-case basis.
Civic Party lawmaker Dr. Kwok Ka-ki said bluntly that he has reason to believe that Hong Kong authorities have not been quick enough in disclosing the information they received.
Authorities seem to think that the public has no way of knowing, Kwok said, warning that such attitude will only make Hong Kong people lose trust in the government further.
Kwok urged the government to arrange chartered flights promptly to bring the Hongkongers stuck in Hubei back to Hong Kong.
The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said the Wuhan Economic and Trade Office “will continue maintaining close communication” with the infected Hong Kong people in Hubei and it “will try its very best to provide assistance to them to ensure that they are receiving suitable treatment and medical care.”
According to the government, it had received more than 80 requests for shipping medicines from Hong Kong to the mainland.
The first batch of medicines reached on Sunday and it had been distributed, and shipment of the second batch of medicines was made on Wednesday.
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