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Full border shutdown 'unwarranted', says Carrie Lam

2020-01-28 HKT 18:51
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  • Full border shutdown 'unwarranted', says Carrie Lam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday said calls for a complete closure of the border with the mainland are “unwarranted” and would actually block Hong Kong people from coming home.

Lam said her administration’s decision to close off six of Hong Kong’s 14 border check points – halting all rail and ferry links with the mainland and significantly cutting down road and air traffic – could be seen as a “partial” border shut down.

“In one go, we are ceasing the service for passengers in six control points – that’s quite a drastic measure,” Lam said. “So that will hopefully reduce passenger flow, and achieve the outcome of drastically limiting the population mobility between the two places. So I wouldn’t agree that these are minor, non-important issues for us to tackle the current virus situation.”

Lam pointed out that around two-thirds to three-quarters of people who travelled to Hong Kong via the high speed rail this month, for example, are Hong Kong residents coming home, not mainlanders, and a complete border shutdown would only be keeping the territory’s own residents out.

“The meaning of so-called complete closure of the border control points is very difficult to understand because there are such a large number of Hong Kong people travelling between these places... so to stop all passenger traffic on such a massive and comprehensive scale is not warranted”, Lam concluded.

She said it didn't matter if the DAB party had said she should not rule out a full border closure, since "the only consideration of the Hong Kong SAR government in dealing with this novel coronavirus infection is public health – public health underpinned by very strong scientific and expert advice."

She also noted that the SAR already has in place a complete ban on non-Hong Kong residents who have been to the virus-hit province of Hubei in the past 14 days from entering the territory, and mainland authorities have earlier halted all package tour groups to the city.

In conjunction with a new measure to also stop individual mainland visitors from coming here for now, Lam said, the complete package of travel restrictions mean the bulk of mainland visitors – save those coming here on business trips, for family reunions, visits or other ‘legitimate’ or ‘humanitarian’ reasons – will be barred from entering Hong Kong.

However, she did not completely rule out a full border closure in the future.

“The situation is evolving and changing very rapidly”, Lam said. “So if you ask me a week ago I perhaps would not have that determination to put in place some of the measures that we have put in place yesterday and today, so we will continue to closely monitor the situation both locally and in the mainland and maybe even internationally, and take the necessary and decisive actions to protect Hong Kong people’s health”, she said.

Lam also revealed that around 200 Hong Kong people in the worst-hit province of Hubei have reached out to SAR authorities for assistance.

She urged all Hong Kong people who’re still in the mainland to return as quickly as possible and quarantine themselves at home for 14 days if possible, or at least wear a mask if they go out.

Lam also said while immigration authorities do not have figures on exactly how many Hubei residents had entered Hong Kong before the ban was implemented on Monday, but officials will be trying to contact them through various channels.

She added that as they would be here on a seven-day visa, the number of Hubei residents remaining in Hong Kong will be quickly declining.