Five steps needed to stop the spread of Wuhan coronavirus in HK

January 31, 2020 12:36
Local experts are in favor of completely sealing the border with the mainland in order to prevent the coronavirus outbreak spreading into Hong Kong. Photo: RTHK

Amid the growing panic in Hong Kong over the deadly Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, our government has remained sluggish and indecisive in responding to the imminent health crisis.

In particular, the SAR administration has continued to ignore mounting calls for a complete shutdown of the border with the mainland and has only agreed to enforce a partial closure, which, in my view, is definitely not enough to contain the spread of the disease.

Local experts like Professor Ho Pak-leung of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong's Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine and former vice-chancellor of the Chinese University Dr. Joseph Sung Jao-Yiu are in favor of completely sealing the border with the mainland in order to prevent the outbreak spreading into the territory.

Yet these calls have all fallen on the deaf ears of the administration.

I believe that in order to protect the lives of Hong Kong citizens and reduce the pressure on our healthcare sector, the SAR government should immediately enforce a full border shutdown, which must include the following measures:

1. Stopping all travels for the purpose of vacation or visiting friends and relatives between Hong Kong and the mainland, and denying entry to mainlanders seeking medical treatment in our city.

2. Banning all those crossing through our border checkpoints immediately, with the exception of the airport and one designated land route.

3. Allowing only very limited cross-border exchanges, under which only mainlanders who haven’t been to the Hubei province or Wuhan in the past 14 days, and who have been issued health certificates by public hospitals above county levels, are permitted to enter Hong Kong for business, academic and freight transport.

4. Allowing Hong Kong residents to return to the territory before enforcing a full border shutdown, and demanding that they self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

5. The full border shutdown should last for at least 50 days.

I believe the above-mentioned measures can contain the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus to the maximum degree, while guaranteeing the normal supply of goods and business activities across the border.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 30

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist

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