Two expert committees of the Centre for Health Protection have recommended that the government allows people held in quarantine centres after coming into close contact with coronavirus patients to go home after just 10 days, instead of 14.
The centre's scientific committees on emerging and zoonotic diseases and on infection control made the call at a joint meeting on Monday amid concerns that the SAR's quarantine centres were approaching capacity.
The scientists said people who had spent 10 days in camps should, on a case-by-case basis, be allowed to go home, as long as they agreed to spend four days in self-quarantine.
"Members agreed that there is evidence of community transmission of novel coronavirus in Hong Kong," the centre said.
"In order to stop ongoing spread and prevent the disease from taking root locally, Hong Kong should continue to maintain the current strategy of isolating cases, quarantine of close contacts and medical surveillance of other contacts."
The government requisitioned four holiday camps for quarantine purposes as the outbreak began in January, but plans to convert other facilities, including a lodge near Mei Foo and newly-built public housing estates, have faced fierce opposition from neighbours.
Capacity is likely to be tested further in the days ahead. More than 300 passengers who've been aboard the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship are due to fly home on Wednesday and will be kept in quarantine.
Discussions are continuing on what to do with about 2,000 people who remain in Hubei province, including about 700 in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
The committees also suggested stepping up surveillance to detect people with coronavirus but who only display minor symptoms. At the moment, such surveillance is limited to inpatient cases, but the scientists say it should be expanded to outpatients, too.
The government is expected to make a final decision based on the two committees' recommendations.
Experts urge early release from quarantine camps
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