Protests in many districts over govt plan for quarantine centers

February 10, 2020 15:54
A man lies on the ground with head injury as anti-riot police enter the Lakeside Garden housing complex in Sai Kung to make arrests amid an anti-quarantine center protest on Sunday. Photo: Facebook page of Editorial Board of CityU Students' Union

Residents in several districts staged protests over the weekend to voice their opposition to establishment of quarantine centers in their neighborhoods as the government seeks to isolate potential and confirmed coronavirus patients in designated facilities.

In Sai Kung, hundreds took to the streets on Sunday denouncing the government’s plan, announced earlier this month, to turn the Sai Kung Outdoor Recreation Centre into a quarantine center to contain the spread of the virus.

The demonstrators gathered outside Sai Kung Tin Hau Temple in the afternoon and then marched to an area in the town center of Sai Kung, chanting slogans. 

"We don't want Sai Kung to become an epicenter" of coronavirus cases, the protesters shouted, among other things, according to RTHK.

As the crowd was nearing the Lakeside Garden housing complex, a large group of anti-riot police officers arrived and began to make arrests, leading to chaos.

The police said that, since 2 pm Sunday, a large group of people had gathered at Chui Tong Road in Sai Kung, with some blocking the roads with objects, and as such, officers took action to make arrests, the public broadcaster reported.

A 57-year-old man was subdued and arrested after he attempted to assault police at the scene while six other people, including four men and two women, aged 26 to 57, were arrested on charges of obstructing a police officer in execution of duty or for loitering.

Zoe Leung Hin-yan, a member of the Sai Kung District Council, later quoted the council’s vice chairman Francis Chau Yin-ming as saying that a district officer had said that the Sai Kung Outdoor Recreation Centre has ceased operations and those who were quarantined there will be transferred to the Tso Kung Tam Outdoor Recreation Centre in Tsuen Wan.

Several pro-democracy members of the Tsuen Wan District Council protested outside the Tso Kung Tam Centre on Sunday evening, with one of them saying the Leisure and Cultural Services Department had promised that the center is not appropriate for the quarantine purpose as it is easier for the venue to develop a cross-infection risk.

The person criticized the government, saying it failed to consult the council before making a decision.

Elsewhere in the New Territories, protests were staged outside the Jockey Club General Out-patient Clinic in Tai Po, which has been designated as a facility for treating novel coronavirus patients.

Fo Tan residents, meanwhile, gathered to protest against the government's revival of a plan to make Chun Yeung Estate accommodate quarantined people, a day after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that the newly completed public housing estate will be used as another quarantine center.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee told a radio program earlier on Sunday that the usage rate of the existing quarantine centers will soon become saturated and the government has been working hard to find new venues, calling on the public to be more cooperative and understanding.

Hong Kong will need more quarantine centers if the epidemic continues, the health chief said, adding that the government will provide more details and explanations with regard to the situation.

On Sunday night, a government spokesman said in a press release that, given the developments and evolving situation in relation to the novel coronavirus infection, it is necessary for authorities to ensure sufficient quarantine facilities for combating the disease.

Currently, the occupancy of three quarantine centers, namely the MacLehose Holiday Village, the Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village and Po Leung Kuk Jockey Club Pak Tam Chung Holiday Camp, has reached their maximum capacity, according to the press release.

The government said it is actively preparing to convert Heritage Lodge of the Jao Tsung-I Academy in Lai Chi Kok into the fourth quarantine center.

Dr. Joseph Tsang Kay-yan, an infectious disease specialist, told the Hong Kong Economic Journal that it is necessary to set up clinics designated for the epidemic because if the situation worsens or more people are infected, public hospitals, as a first stage for testing, will be overburdened and the risk of cross infection will become higher.

The purpose of setting up the designated clinics is to distinguish the virus carriers as soon as possible, and quickly provide relevant treatments and isolation, Tsang said, urging the public not to resist such moves.

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TL/JC/RC