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Experts, lawmakers urge tighter Wuhan virus checks

2020-01-20 HKT 15:16
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  • Hong Kong officials say temperature checks at the borders are an effective way to monitor the situation. File photo: AP
    Hong Kong officials say temperature checks at the borders are an effective way to monitor the situation. File photo: AP
Medical experts and lawmakers are calling for enhanced monitoring for the Wuhan virus in Hong Kong, being as more mainland cities have reported cases and a large number of people will be travelling to and from the mainland when the Lunar New Year holiday starts this weekend.

The head of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Infection, Ho Pak-leung, pointed out that large numbers will be travelling between the SAR and Shenzhen, which has confirmed one case of the virus. There is a high chance that the virus will be reported in Hong Kong soon, he said.

Ho said that the spread of the virus beyond Wuhan was expected, but the mainland authorities may not have fully grasped the situation when the first cases were reported.

He said the Hong Kong government should review the situation and recognise that the outbreak is a major infectious disease event. Steps like health declarations at the borders should be implemented as soon as possible, he said.

Meanwhile pro-government lawmaker Chan Hoi-yan added her voice to such demands, saying measures should be adopted before any case of the virus is detected in the city. This is a critical time to prevent an epidemic, she said, adding that the government has not responded speedily enough so far.

Chan said people returning to Hong Kong from all provinces and cities on the mainland should be reporting to the authorities if they develop symptoms of illness within two weeks. Health declaration forms should also be made mandatory immediately for visitors, she said.

Opposition lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki had earlier raised similar concerns and had urged the authorities to set up isolation areas at the airport and express rail terminus.

But speaking to the media on Monday morning, the under secretary for health, Chui Tak-yi, said temperature checks will be adequate for screening travellers and information obtained through health declarations may not be always accurate.