Medical experts and politicians in Hong Kong on Tuesday urged the public to adopt a more sympathetic attitude to the government’s moves to set up more quarantine centers — two days ahead of the arrival of some 300 local residents who have been stranded on a cruise liner in Japan that has reported hundreds of infections.
The call for support followed protests by local residents against government initiatives to designate vacant public housing estates and clinics near their neighborhoods for the quarantine and treatment of coronavirus-infected patients.
As long as the government strictly protects the buildings and implements tight regulations, nearby residents will be safe
Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases under the Hong Kong Medical Association
The government has arranged two charter flights to fly home those aboard Diamond Princess. The Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan will be used to house returning passengers for their two-week quarantines.
Meanwhile, there are around 2,000 Hong Kong residents in Hubei province, the epicenter of the epidemic. Ten of them have been confirmed to be infected.
The city’s four quarantine centers are 90 percent full, according to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
Leung Chi-chiu, a doctor who specializes in the respiratory system and chairman of the Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases under the Hong Kong Medical Association, warned that if people from coronavirus-affected areas are not quarantined in designated places, a large-scale community outbreak is likely to occur in Hong Kong.
Leung said that as long as the government strictly protects the buildings and implements tight regulations, nearby residents will be safe.
Ko Wing-man, Hong Kong’s former secretary for food and health who played a leading role in the battle against the 2003 SARS outbreak, said putting enough quarantine centers in place is the key to fighting the novel coronavirus. He explained that this is because the people-to-people transmission rate of the novel coronavirus is much higher than it was for SARS.
Researchers at the University of Texas published their latest findings on website bioRxiv on Saturday. They said that the novel coronavirus is up to 20 times more likely to bind to human cell receptors and cause infection than SARS is.
Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, echoed Ko, urging people to stand behind the government in fighting the epidemic.
He said public housing estates were “ideal” choices as temporary quarantine centers because they have isolated rooms with good ventilation.
The city had recorded 62 cases of infection as of Tuesday. Meanwhile, the number of infected patients on the cruise ship in Japan had risen by 88 to 542, including at least 50 Hong Kong residents.
Ma Ching-nam, chairman of the charitable organization Po Leung Kuk, also agreed that setting up quarantine centers was important. Po Leung Kuk provided its Pak Tam Chung Holiday Camp to the SAR government to turn it into a quarantine center.
“What will the government do with those people (coming back Hong Kong from affected areas) if there are not enough places to hold them? Bury them in the sea?” he asked.
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