Police look for two who break quarantine regulations

February 11, 2020 13:08
Health Secretary Sophia Chan (center) told media on Monday that police had issued arrest warrants on two people who had gone missing after breaching quarantine regulations. Photo: HKEJ

Police are looking for two people who disobeyed the government's quarantine regulations and went incommunicado, a development that points to the difficulties involved in tightly enforcing the rules that were imposed last week to contain the spread of the China novel coronavirus that has infected 42 people in Hong Kong so far.

At a press conference on Monday afternoon, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee revealed that in the first two days since the government began on Saturday to impose a 14-day mandatory quarantine on all the people entering Hong Kong from mainland China, a total of 1,193 people, including 1,066 Hong Kong residents, were placed under the mandatory quarantine.

These people were required not to go anywhere but stay in their homes, or hotels or quarantine facilities provided by the government by exercising self-discipline and avoid posing risks to public health safety.

However, spot checks performed by the police found that nine among the quarantined people were not staying at home all the time, according to Chan.

As such, the nine people were deemed to have flouted the quarantine regulations.

Chan on Monday said the police have later successfully found seven of these people but are still trying to locate the other two, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The official told media that the police had issued arrest warrants on the two missing people and would consider criminal prosecutions.

That said, Chan added that the two, once they are caught, will only get a warning for being first-time offenders and will be given bracelets provided by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer to track their locations and ensure that they are staying home.

If they still don’t comply, they will be sent compulsorily to a quarantine camp, the health chief said.

Chan added on Monday afternoon that authorities are using various means to check whether the quarantined people are complying with the quarantine orders, with 516 of them having been asked to share their live locations on their phones.

Nearly 680 phone calls and almost 450 video calls have been made to those in quarantine to check on their whereabouts.

The figures pertain to those who were put under mandatory quarantine on Saturday and Sunday.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told reporters on Tuesday, ahead of an Executive Council meeting, that as of Monday midnight 2,196 people were required to undergo the 14-day mandatory quarantine, with over 90 percent of them Hongkongers.

Aiming to ease public concerns, Deputy Secretary for Food and Health (Food) Daniel Cheng Chung-wai told the Monday presser that since only nine were out of contact while they should have been under home quarantine, the ratio was in fact very low.

Cheng did not elaborate on what the police will do to track down the two people that are still missing, only saying that he has confidence in the police’s ability.

The police, meanwhile, have so far been reluctant to make public the information on the two who are out of contact, such as their personal information and locations of their residences.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who once served as an investigator at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), urged the police to disclose information regarding the two so as to allow citizens to make necessary preparations because public health and safety are at stake.

Fellow party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who had been deputy chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, echoed his colleague's words, saying the government should assume that the wanted are dangerous to a certain degree.

As the police had issued arrest warrants on the missing two, the government would mull prosecution, and consider asking those who had once been out of contact to wear electronic bracelets or go into quarantine facilities, Chief Executive Lam said.

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