HK raises alert level, but no mainland arrival ban - RTHK
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HK raises alert level, but no mainland arrival ban

2020-01-25 HKT 17:35
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  • HK raises alert level, but no mainland arrival ban
Hong Kong on Saturday raised its alert to its highest level and decided to make health declarations compulsory to all visitors from the mainland, but rejected calls for a temporary ban on all arrivals from across the border.

Speaking to reporters after holding meetings with officials and experts that lasted for hours, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said: "Today I declare the lifting of the response level to emergency."

Lam said all flights and rail service with Wuhan will remain suspended indefinitely. This comes after the central government stopped all transport out of Wuhan and some neighbouring cities on Thursday.

But she rejected a temporary halt to all arrivals from the mainland. It is inappropriate and impractical to ban mainlanders from entering Hong Kong at this stage, said the Chief Executive.

Gabriel Leung, head of HKU medicine faculty, who was among the officials briefing the media pointed out that Hong Kong never implemented such a step during similar circumstances when Sars or avian flu broke out.

He said he and other experts who met the CE agreed with this decision and said all strategies should be based on science and not politics.

Lam also declared that health declarations will be made compulsory at all border checkpoints from now on.

Initially only people arriving by plane from Wuhan were required to do this and it was extended to express rail terminal only on Friday.

Many experts had called for the forms to be made compulsory to all visitors, but till now officials have rebuffed this, with Health Secretary Sophia Chan saying the thermal imaging system was good enough to screen out possible cases.

The officials said all schools will remain shut till February 17 and also have ordered the cancellation of the Standard Chartered marathon which was scheduled for February 8 and 9.

"We haven't seen serious and widespread infections, but we are taking this seriously and we hope to be ahead of the epidemic," said Lam.

Some experts have been critical of the government measures so far and calling for more steps to prevent the virus from spreading in Hong Kong.

The coronavirus, which is similar to Sars, has created havoc on the mainland with over 40 people killed and thousands infected.

Hong Kong has reported five cases of the virus so far and all of them arrived via the express rail link to the mainland.

Mainland authorities have have put Wuhan and several other cities under lockdown to prevent people from going in or out of the city.