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Wednesday, January 29, 2020, 09:35
HK suspends transport links to contain coronavirus spread
By He Shusi and Shadow Li
Wednesday, January 29, 2020, 09:35 By He Shusi and Shadow Li

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor speaks at a news conference held at the held at the Central Government Offices on Tuesday afternoon. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The Hong Kong government is temporarily closing six of the city’s 14 immigration checkpoints and cutting in half the number of flights to and from the Chinese mainland in an effort to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus that started in Wuhan, the capital city of Central China’s Hubei province.

Effective Thursday, six immigration checkpoints in the city, including the ones at the city’s high-speed rail station and Hung Hom Station, will be closed indefinitely

At a news conference on Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also said that the central government has approved stopping issuing new endorsements under the Individual Visit Scheme from Tuesday. The program, which allows residents of 49 mainland cities to visit Hong Kong and Macao without being part of a tour group, has been suspended for Macao as well.

Effective Thursday, six immigration checkpoints in the city, including the ones at the city’s high-speed rail station and Hung Hom Station, will be closed indefinitely. Passenger traffic at Sha Tau Kok, Man Kam To, the China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui and the Tuen Mun Ferry Pier also will be suspended, Lam said. The closure applies only to passenger services. Cargo transport at these ports remains normal. Cross-boundary shuttle bus service via the Hong Kong-Macao-Zhuhai Bridge and Sha Tau Kok will be reduced, Lam said.

The further-tightened measures came a day after the special administrative region government started imposing immigration restrictions on Hubei residents and non-Hong Kong residents who have visited Hubei in the past 14 days.

Visitors under the Individual Visit Scheme account for half of Hong Kong’s total visitors each year. Meanwhile, to avoid further spreading of the epidemic, the mainland has already suspended all outbound or domestic tourist groups.

The number of mainland travelers to Hong Kong has decreased dramatically, with 70 percent of people currently using the checkpoints between Hong Kong and the mainland being Hong Kong residents, Lam said. Also, beginning Tuesday, the Hospital Authority began charging non-local residents the full-cost price for medical expenses incurred.

Some 200 Hong Kong residents are still in Hubei as most of the cities in the province remain locked down, Lam said, adding that the SAR government’s office in Wuhan was maintaining contact with the residents. She said the SAR government was in talks with the central government so that arrangements could be made to bring these residents back home.

Lam urged Hong Kong residents not to visit mainland cities with confirmed cases of infection, and urged those still on the mainland to return home as soon as possible. She appealed to residents who have been to the mainland in the past 14 days to stay at home, if possible, for two weeks upon returning to Hong Kong, and wear a face mask if they need to go out.

The exact number of Hubei residents in the city is still unknown, and the government is in touch with hotels to trace Hubei residents who are still in Hong Kong, and refer them to the Department of Health for appropriate action, Lam said. She believed the number of Hubei residents in Hong Kong will gradually decrease, as most of them could stay in Hong Kong for no longer than seven days due to the expiration of their visas, and the SAR has already imposed visit restrictions.

heshusi@chinadailyhk.com


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