Protesters oppose virus treatment clinics near their homes

February 17, 2020 12:12
Residents, led by their district councilors, brave the rain to join a protest in Fo Tan in Sha Tin on Sunday to oppose plans to turn Chun Yeung Estate into a quarantine center. Photo: HKEJ

Hundreds of people staged protests in multiple districts in Hong Kong over the weekend to oppose government moves designating quarantine centers for suspected novel coronavirus (Covid-19) patients as well as clinics to treat those with mild symptoms.

The protesters said the facilities were too close to their residential areas and they should have been consulted before the decisions were made, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

At least 18 clinics have been designated for suspected novel coronavirus patients with mild symptoms while several facilities are being considered as quarantine centers as part of efforts to control the spread of the virus in the city.

The government said the plan will only be implemented if the outbreak worsens, and patients with mild symptoms can seek treatment in such clinics to avoid overburdening public hospitals and to save themselves lengthy commutes, RTHK reported.

On Sunday, protests were held in Kwai Chung in the morning and in Cheung Sha Wan in the afternoon. Police had issued letters of no objection to the mass actions.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, also a member of the Kwai Tsing District Council, was among those opposing the designation of the South Kwai Chung Jockey Club General Out-patient Clinic as a Covid-19 clinic, saying that the building is just a few meters away from residential areas.

He suggested that the government build instead a temporary clinic at Kwai Chung Park, which is located farther away from the neighborhood.

The protesters marched in the areas where the clinics were to be established as police officers stood by.

Both protests ended peacefully, but another one that was held around Richland Gardens in Kowloon Bay as night fell.

Some protesters tried to block roads with rubbish bins and other objects, prompting riot police to rush into the estate to disperse them by using pepper spray, RTHK reported.

A rally in Fo Tan in Sha Tin was held by district councilors on Sunday to oppose plans to turn Chun Yeung Estate into a quarantine center.

A 38-year-old mother of two said she had waited eight years for her home in the public housing estate and was expecting to get her keys by the end of this month, Reuters reported.

“There’s no consultation and we don’t know how long they’ll use Chun Yeung estate. That’s why we are so mad,” she said.

Koby, 36, also expressed frustration at not being told for how long the public housing might be used for quarantine.

“I’ve waited eight years. I have two children studying in kindergarten and have already transferred them to the school in Fo Tan,” the news agency quoted him as saying.

In Sai Kung, residents joined a town-hall-style meeting organized by district councilors to oppose the use of Lady MacLehose Holiday Village, Pak Tam Chung Holiday Camp and Pak Tam Chung Holiday Camp as quarantine centers.

On Saturday, police arrested dozens of people in Tin Shui Wai after some of the protesters threw rubbish bins on the MTR tracks at the Tin Sau Light Rail Stop and set an Octopus Card reader on fire.

A total of 33 people, aged 14 to 52, were arrested for various offenses including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons, breaching the Telecommunications Ordinance and disorderly conduct in a public place, police said.

On Saturday morning, the Tai Po Jockey Club General Out-patient Clinic caught fire after a suspected petrol bomb attack.

The Hospital Authority issued a statement condemning the "repeated malicious behaviors" that could affect the safety of healthcare staff and patients at the outpatient clinic.

Last Friday, the Mrs. Wu York Yu General Outpatient Clinic on Wo Yi Hop Road in Kwai Chung was damaged by an arson attack. It was also the target of an arson attack on Feb. 8.

Dr. Sara Ho Yuen-ha, HA chief manager for patient safety and risk management, on Saturday said no timetable has yet been set for the launch of the clinics. She stressed it was important to divert suspected Covid-19 patients to designated clinics to help reduce the risk of cross-infection.

Inspecting anti-epidemic work in various locations on Sunday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngo said that while she understands the concerns of residents near the designated quarantine centers and clinics, she appealed to the public to support their establishment and act in unison in fighting the outbreak.

Lam stressed that the operation of the facilities will comply with stringent requirements, adding that there will be law enforcement and healthcare officers on duty round the clock.

People subject to quarantine will be transferred in and out of the centers by dedicated vehicles and not allowed to move freely in the community, the chief executive said.

The facilities will only have minimal impact on residents nearby, she added.

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Sai Kung residents attend a town-hall-style meeting to oppose the use of three sites in their district as quarantine centers. Photo: RTHK