The Secretary for Security, John Lee, on Monday warned that Hong Kong residents now on a cruise ship quarantined in Japan will have to repeat the process again when they get back to the SAR, even if they have successfully completed the isolation period there.
Some of the 350 or so Hongkongers on the Diamond Princess have said they don't want to be quarantined for another two weeks, as they have already been stuck on the ship since February 3 over an outbreak of the new coronavirus. Their current quarantine period is due to end on Wednesday.
The SAR government sent two chartered flights to Japan on Monday to evacuate the Hong Kong residents. One passenger that RTHK talked to questioned the need to repeat the quarantine.
Some reports quoted some passengers as saying it would be better to stay on the ship until Wednesday rather than go elsewhere and start another 14-day quarantine.
Speaking before seeing off a team of 30 immigration and health officers who were flying to Japan for the evacuation, Lee said the passengers should take the chartered flights the government had sent.
The secretary warned that those on the ship would face quarantine even if they flew back to the SAR on their own later on, and immigration authorities already have their records.
“It’s important for them to know that if they do not take our chartered flights on this occasion, there’ll likely be a lot of difficulties for them to come back to Hong Kong because they have been on board this cruise,” he said.
Lee said the two flights would have “sufficient space” to accommodate 350 Hong Kong residents and five Macau residents.
The flights are expected to depart Haneda Airport on Wednesday and arrive in the SAR on Thursday. The passengers would be sent to quarantine centres.
More than 450 people on board the cruise ship currently docked at the Yokohama port have been infected with the new Covid-19 virus.