Hong Kong urged to strengthen anti-virus measures
The city is not likely to see any easing of the epidemic until June and July, according to a medical expert
Medical experts and political activists have urged the Hong Kong government to take stronger measures to stop the Wuhan coronavirus from spreading in the city.
An estimated 25,6300 people were infected as of Saturday, according to Gabriel Leung, chair professor of public health medicine at the University of Hong Kong and founding director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control. Including those in the incubation stage, the number of people infected could be as high as 44,000, Leung said in a press conference on Monday.
The epidemic will continue to grow until it peaks in April and May, said Leung, adding that Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Chongqing will be hit particularly hard. Chongqing, a transportation hub, is expected see up to 150,000 new confirmed cases per day in April and May, he said.
Hong Kong is not likely to see any easing of the epidemic until June and July, Leung said. The government’s current “containment” strategy against the disease may not work over the long run and stronger measures could be needed, including running large-scale public hygiene campaigns, reducing the flow of people between cities and suspending classes and public activities, he said.
As of 6 pm on Monday, the total number of confirmed cases in China was 2,835 and the death toll had reached 81, according to the National Health Commission. More than 30,000 people are under medical observation.
Commenting on the government’s latest decision to forbid those who have lived or stayed in Hubei province in the last 14 days from entering Hong Kong, Leung said it was a good start but stressed that the ban should extend to more mainland cities.
Leung said that some people could lie about where they had been in order to avoid being identified and isolated, and that there was little the government could do about it.
Citizen’s Press Conference, a political activist group formed by anti-extradition protesters last year, said in a Monday press briefing that the Hong Kong government should immediately ban all mainlanders from entering the city.
The group said people tended not to tell Hong Kong customs officials if they had been to Hubei and that the government failed to crosscheck. They urged the government to prepare for a scenario in which hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents return from the mainland over the next few days infected with the virus.
Sophia Chan Siu-chee, secretary for food and health, admitted that customs officials currently rely on incoming travellers to be honest about where they have been been. Chan said the government would consider punishing those who lie.
A train passenger from Guangzhou told NowTV that she was asked to fill in a form at Hong Kong customs asking where she had been over the past two weeks. She said such a declaration was not effective. She suggested that the Hong Kong government obtain detailed information about all passengers from China Railway (www.12306.cn) network.
The Macau government is leading its Hong Kong counterpart in terms of epidemic control. The Asian gaming city successfully identified 144 Hubei people and sent 140 of them back to the mainland. The remaining four decided to stay and be quarantined. Macau police will monitor another 500 Hubei people in the city.
Last Friday, a Wuhan couple who had fevers ran away from the Prince of Wales Hospital after they were told they would have to pay a medical fee of HK$5,100 (US$656) per day as they were not residents. They were brought back to the hospital by the police.
The couple came to Hong Kong to visit their daughter at Lake Silver in Man On Shan. After they were identified as infected, their daughter developed a fever and was sent to the Prince of Wales Hospital for isolation, while her Filipino domestic worker was sent to the Lady MacLehose Holiday Village for quarantine.
The domestic worker did not show any sign of infection and remained healthy, according to the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong.
Chung Kin-lai, director (quality and safety) of the Hospital Authority, announced on Monday that all patients of the suspected and confirmed cases would not have to pay for their medical expenses in public hospitals. Chung said the new measure would help stop the virus from spreading.
However, the new measure was criticized by local medical staff as it could attract a large number of non-local patients seeking free medical services in Hong Kong and significantly increase their workloads.
As of noon on Monday, the Centre for Health Protection had received reports of 451 infection cases, including eight confirmed cases and 276 cases that were not novel coronavirus. The remaining 167 patients were hospitalized for investigation.
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