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Quarantine dodgers to face six months in prison

2020-02-07 HKT 17:49
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  • Quarantine dodgers to face six months in prison
Anyone who breaches the government's emergency quarantine measures for people who have recently been to the mainland will face six months in prison or a HK$25,000 fine.

The announcement was made by Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung at a media briefing on Friday evening, just hours before the new measure is to come into effect amid the mainland's deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Any SAR residents returning from the mainland will be ordered to confine themselves to their own homes for 14 days, but will not be allowed to receive visitors. Non-residents will also be quarantined in the accommodation they had planned to go to, for example a hotel.

Those with nowhere to go will be sent to camps, and around three dozen 24-hour hotlines will be established by the Home Affairs Department if people in quarantine need food, supplies, or assistance.

Travellers without a valid visa for a 14-day period will be barred from entry.

Cheung said the flow of goods across the border will not be affected by the quarantine measures.

People crossing the border because they are providing essential services will be exempt from the requirements, as will delivery truck drivers and flight crews.

But these people will have to be put under medical surveillance while in the SAR and will be required to wear masks and check and report their temperatures to health officials every day.

Cheung appealed to those who are put into confinement to think of their civic responsibility and exercise self-discipline, saying Hong Kong must work together to combat the epidemic.

"Together we stand, divided we fall," he said.

Secretary for Health Sophia Chan stressed that the people to be put under quarantine would pose a low risk to public health because they would not be sick, and would be closely monitored by health officials.

They would be required to check their own temperatures daily, and keep in close contact with health officials throughout the 14-day quarantine.

She echoed Cheung's comment that the cooperation of those under quarantine will be key, saying "Of course there will be spot checks, random checks to see whether this person is at home… [but] self-discipline is most important because the whole idea is not to really put the person [at home] and having a lot of guards outside.”

Security minister John Lee conceded that the number of people coming into Hong Kong surged 30 percent to 145,000 on Thursday, a day after Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the mandatory quarantines, but said this was "not unexpected" ahead of the imposition of the measure.

"By introducing the mandatory 14-day quarantine measure", he added, "we will be stopping a lot of people."

Meanwhile, the chief secretary said he had received a good response to an appeal for current and retired civil servants to volunteer to help arrange and enforce the quarantine measures, and denied reports that some government staff were being coerced into offering their services.

"We must work hand-in-hand to tackle this crisis situation. I’m making a personal, sincere appeal and telling you that some heads of departments are responding in very positive terms already. I’ve been receiving very encouraging emails. Any suggestion of coercion is entirely untrue," he said.

Cheung also revealed that Hong Kong has confirmed another case of the new virus, bringing the total so far to 25. The 58-year-old patient is a Hong Kong man who works in Zhuhai and Macau.

Addressing the ongoing panic buying in the city, Cheung said there are adequate supplies of rice and other daily essentials and people shouldn't be too ready to believe online rumours.

He also announced that civil servants will be able to continue working from home for another week, until February 16, unless they need to go out to maintain essential services.

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Last updated: 2020-02-07 HKT 18:31