Quarantine set for arrivals from US, UK, Ireland and Egypt

March 16, 2020 12:48
The government has urged members of the public to avoid non-essential travel outside Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong will impose 14-day mandatory quarantine on all arrivals from the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Egypt from Thursday.

The government issued the Red Outbound Travel Alert (OTA) on the US, the UK and Ireland in a statement on Sunday night, saying that the decision was made in view of the persistent and rapid increase in the number of novel coronavirus cases in those countries.

Those planning to travel to those places are urged to adjust travel plans, and in general, members of the public should consider delaying all non-essential travel outside Hong Kong, the government said.

Starting from March 19, the Department of Health (DH) will implement quarantine procedures for all people arriving in Hong Kong who have been to the four countries in the past 14 days.

The 14-day home quarantine will apply to Hong Kong residents as well as foreigners, the DH said in a statement. 

The quarantine measures announced earlier, which cover those who have been to Korea, Iran, Hokkaido in Japan and the 26 Schengen countries in Europe in the past 14 days, remain unchanged, the department said.

A spokesman for the DH's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said that in the past two weeks, from March 2 to 15, 26 out of 46 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Hong Kong, or about 56.5 percent, were imported ones, while seven other cases, or about 15.2 percent, involved patients visiting places outside Hong Kong during the incubation period.

The CHP will adjust health quarantine measures based on the latest developments and risks in different countries as well as the current capacity of quarantine facilities in Hong Kong, he added.

Alice Chan Cheung Lok-yee, executive director of the Travel Industry Council, there are currently no Hong Kong tour groups in Ireland and the US, but at least 27 such groups with about 540 members are set to return to the city on Tuesday and afterwards from the Schengen area, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

Also, at least six tour groups with about 100 members will return from Egypt on Wednesday at the latest, Chan said. Several new Covid-19 cases involved Hong Kong citizens who had traveled to Egypt recently.

Meanwhile, authorities are discussing plans with airlines for a second batch of charter flights to central China's Hubei province to bring back Hong Kong people stranded there, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said.

The flights are expected to carry 500-600 people, mainly living from areas near Wuhan, the provincial capital, Nip told a TV program on Sunday.  He said the evacuation plan can be implemented later this month and the planes will also take off from Wuhan airport.

Nip said there are still about 3,400 Hong Kong residents in 36 cities across Hubei.

Transporting them to the airport and getting them on the charter flights will be more challenging than the first evacuation conducted earlier this month, he said, noting that it may take three to four hours to get them to the airport.

Asked if the Covid-19 outbreak would affect the Legislative Council elections scheduled for September, Nip said the government will keep a close eye on the situation and devise contingency plans to cope with any possible developments.

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