The head of the Hong Kong Public Doctor’s Association warned on Tuesday that the government decision to restrict, but not halt the inflow of mainlanders to Hong Kong may be inadequate to ward off the widening outbreak of the Wuhan virus.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam had announced earlier on Tuesday that six of 14 border checkpoints would be temporarily closed starting on Thursday, with cross-border rail links severed and air, road and ferry traffic significantly reduced.
However, Arisina Ma said leaving open extremely busy crossings like the one at Lowu means there is still a significant possibility that infected people could make their way in.
“This is the last chance [we have to] stop the disease getting into Hong Kong and stop [a] community outbreak”, Ma warned.
She said with mainland authorities having confirmed that even people without any symptoms could carry – and transmit – the virus, such ‘silent carriers’ could have a deadly affect on the territory.
“ If we’re getting more and more… secret or silent carriers, the chance for us to have a community outbreak is high”, Ma said.
And with Hong Kong’s densely packed population, and community outbreak, she warned, would be “drastic”.
Ma also said she hopes medical workers would not have to go on strike to try to pressure the government to impose a full border shutdown, and hopes officials will instead listen to their concerns so no industrial action will be necessary.
Ma also said many frontline workers are getting increasingly worried about whether local hospitals have adequate supplies of crucial protective equipment like masks.
She said she’s heard from frontline staff at different hospitals that they have been going through far more masks and protective gear than expected, and that they've been asked to use supplies ‘wisely'. Ma warned that this could lead to conflicts between staff and management.
Ma said she understands that while the government has been saying that it has three months’ worth of protective gear; some of that may still be held by mainland suppliers – meaning there’s no guarantee they will actually be sent to local hospitals on time.
Ma also urged the Hospital Authority to reduce the length of time frontline medical workers are deployed to isolation areas within local hospitals, from six, to between two and four weeks.
She said they also insist that they should be quarantined for two weeks after such deployments, to make sure they’re not infected, and pass on the deadly virus to their families, or other patients.