Mandatory quarantine to cover several regions in Europe, Japan

March 11, 2020 12:19
Airport health staff monitor the body temperatures of passengers with thermal scanners in an arrival hall at the Hong Kong airport. The government is beefing up quarantine arrangements on inbound travelers arriving from some regions in Europe and Japan. P

Hong Kong is set to strengthen health quarantine arrangements on inbound travelers arriving from some regions in Europe and Japan after authorities issued a Red Outbound Travel Alert (OTA) for those places.

On Tuesday, the government issued the Red Outbound Travel Alert (OTA) for France (Bourgogne-Franche-Comte and Grand Est regions), Germany (North Rhine-Westphalia region), Japan (Hokkaido) and Spain (La Rioja, Madrid and Pais Vasco regions) and also expanded the OTA to cover the entire Italy as opposed only the Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto regions that was announced earlier on Feb. 28.

The decision was made in view of the persistent and rapid increase in the number of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in those regions of the countries, the government said, urging members of the public planning to travel to the aforementioned places to adjust travel plans and avoid non-essential travel.

In general, members of the public are advised to consider delaying all non-essential travel outside Hong Kong, the government said.

Following the latest OTA, the Department of Health (DH) on Tuesday said that it will strengthen health quarantine requirements for inbound travelers arriving from the aforementioned places.

Starting from March 14, the DH's Port Health Division officers will issue quarantine orders under the Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation to people arriving in Hong Kong who have been to such places in the past 14 days.

The rule will apply to Hong Kong residents as well as foreigners, according to a government press release issued on Tuesday night.

They will be arranged to stay in a quarantine center for 14 days upon their arrival. The quarantine measures announced earlier for those who have been to Korea and Iran in the past 14 days remain unchanged.

A spokesman for the DH’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said the administration has been conducting detailed assessments for formulating port health measures in response to the occurrence of outbreaks in countries or areas outside the city, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Jason Wong Chun-tat, chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, pointed out that the covered regions in Germany and France are not hot spots for Hong Kong travelers.

Meanwhile, it is believed that there are no more Hong Kong tour groups left in Italy as the government had issued a warning previously against traveling there.

Local travel agencies have also stopped arranging tours to Hokkaido since the Japanese government suspended visa-free arrangements for Hong Kong passport holders, Wong added.

Speaking to media before an Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said Hong Kong has to adopt a containment strategy to prevent overseas imports of the Covid-19 cases and at the same time curb domestic transmission of the virus.

In deciding which countries restrictions should apply to, Lam said the government is looking at several factors, such as the number of Covid-19 cases, measures by the authorities to control the spread of the virus, and how many Hong Kong visitors each place attracts, RTHK reported.

The government also needs to take local capacity of taking care of Covid-19 cases into consideration, for example, whether the number of quarantine centers is adequate and how much pressure confirmed patients will bring to public hospitals, the chief executive added.

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