HK man dies of Covid-19 in Wuhan, raising pressure on SAR govt

February 24, 2020 12:18
A major avenue in Wuhan, the capital of central China's Hubei province. More than 2,700 Hongkongers are stranded in Hubei as the death toll linked to the novel coronavirus continues to rise in the province. Photo: Reuters

A 77-year-old man from Hong Kong has died of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in Wuhan, the capital of central China's Hubei province, increasing the pressure on the SAR government to bring home those stranded in the epicenter of the outbreak, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Political parties have been urging the administration to rescue the more than 2,700 Hongkongers in Hubei as the virus-linked death toll continued to increase in the province, which has been under lockdown since last month.

The man had passed away before the case was classified as a confirmed Covid-19 infection, a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau (CMAB) said in a press release on Sunday night, citing information from mainland authorities.

The information is understood to have been sent on Thursday last week.

The Wuhan Economic and Trade Office of the HKSAR (Wuhan ETO) has contacted his family in Guangzhou and provided assistance, the spokesman added.

There are 10 other Hongkongers in Hubei, involving three families, who have been infected with the disease, the spokesman said.

“Nine of them are being treated in local hospitals and one of them has been discharged,” he said. One is critical while the rest are in stable condition.

Lawmaker Dr. Kwok Ka-ki of the Civic Party said Hubei is facing a serious shortage of medical resources, putting the stranded Hongkongers in the province at greater risk.

Kwok urged the SAR government to coordinate with mainland authorities and arrange for chartered flights to bring the Hongkongers home as soon as possible.

The government has yet to come up with a concrete evacuation plan for the stranded Hongkongers, however.

Lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, also from the Civic Party, said the SAR government should be held accountable for the death of the Hong Kong man in Wuhan.

Had the government acted earlier to pull out Hongkongers from the province, Tam said, there could have been enough quarantine facilities in the city to accommodate them.

But it is too late because these facilities are nearly saturated at the moment and even the newly requisitioned Chun Yeung Estate is too close to residential homes, he said. 

The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions said on Sunday that it has so far received 607 requests for assistance from Hongkongers in Hubei, including about 50 considered very urgent.

Lawmaker Michael Luk Chung-hung, who represents the federation, suggested the government arrange for the use of high-speed trains specifically to rescue the Hongkongers.

In Sunday’s press release, the CMAB spokesman said the government is "communicating with the relevant departments in the Mainland with a view to bringing back, in batches and as soon as possible, Hong Kong people stranded in Hubei, including various groups with special needs”.

"At the same time, there is a need for all relevant parties to come together to draw up a sound and safe plan in order to reduce the public health risks to a minimum. We will lose no time in liaising with various parties to finalise the plan as soon as possible," he said.

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