In view of a jump in cases of a new coronavirus emerging in different mainland cities and three other Asian countries, the Hong Kong government said on Monday that it will introduce health declaration forms – but only for travellers arriving on flights from Wuhan.
Announcing this, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said Hong Kong officials are keeping the focus just on Wuhan as the evidence shows it is from there that all cases reported so far had originated.
But the health officials said there was no need for such forms on trains, as the temperature checks being done at the West Kowloon terminus – where two trains arrive everyday via Wuhan – are effective enough.
There are about 12 direct flights to Hong Kong from Wuhan each week.
With the mainland reporting cases of the virus in various provinces and three countries in the region also recording their first cases, experts in Hong Kong had called for a range of measures to be implemented before the Lunar New Year holidays when tens of thousands of people will be on the move.
Experts and lawmakers had suggested steps like health declaration forms for all mainland arrivals, quarantine facilities at the airport and railway stations, and a higher alert level.
Director of Health Constance Chan said they are not asking all visitors to fill out the declaration forms after considering the practicability of this. She said because they arrived at this decision because it not good for disease control if a large number of people are stuck at border points filling out forms.
But the health secretary, who is a former nursing professor, did warn that Hong Kong might see its first confirmed case “in the next minute”.
According to the Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation, travellers who don’t comply with the declaration form requirement, or knowingly give false information, will face a maximum penalty of six months in jail or a HK$5,000 fine.
The government last week asked doctors and hospitals to report information about patients if they had visited any mainland hospital, or had close contact with anyone confirmed to be infected with the virus.
So far, more than 100 people considered as suspected cases have been isolated in Hong Kong, but none of them were found to be infected.
The health secretary said according to information provided by authorities on the mainland, 170 patients infected with the virus remain in hospital, 35 of whom are in a serious condition while nine are critical.
HK to issue health declarations – for Wuhan flights
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