Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, announces seven new measures to contain the outbreak. China’s latest health crisis coincides with Lunar New Year celebrations. Tourists have been spreading the virus, causing panic in Southeast Asia.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hong Kong has decided to drastically cut cross-border travel with the mainland. Railways have been closed, flights slashed and individual mainland travellers have been denied entry in an attempt to contain the 2019-nCoV outbreak.
The deadly coronavirus is causing pneumonia in epidemic proportions. First identified in the Chinese province of Hubei, it has so far infected eight people in the former British colony.
This morning, Chinese health authorities confirmed that, as of 28 January, 106 had died, whilst the number of confirmed cases in the country had reached 4,515.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, held a press conference to announce new measures to contain the crisis. Starting midnight on Thursday, flights from and to mainland China will be cut by half and cross-border tour buses will also be reduced. Train services between Hung Hom and Guangzhou will be suspended, whilst the Man Kan To and Sha Tau Kok checkpoints will be closed.
In total, some seven new measures will be implemented, including mandatory health checks and temperature screening for travellers departing from all ports, including the airport.
Chinese authorities had already implemented the same policy for those planning to leave the mainland. Beijing also agreed to stop issuing individual travel visas for mainlanders, who account for half of all mainland arrivals in Hong Kong.
Making matters worse, the latest health crisis in China coincides with Lunar New Year festivities. At this time of the year, millions of people crisscross the country to visit relatives and friends whilst hundreds of thousands take this opportunity to travel to neighbouring countries.
As a result, China’s 2019-nCoV outbreak is also causing havoc in Southeast Asia.
Last year Thailand welcomed Chinese 11 million visitors, making China its top tourist market. This morning, Thai authorities confirmed six more coronavirus cases among visitors from China for a total of 14 so far. This gives Thailand the second highest number of infections after China.
Faced with a disgruntled public opinion, Public Health Permanent Secretary Sukhum Kanchanapimai yesterday held an emergency meeting with the ministers of Transport and Tourism. His department will now scan all passengers from China, Sukhum said.
Although no case has been confirmed in the Philippines, local health authorities are monitoring 11 suspected coronavirus cases. Manila has stopped issuing visas on arrival for Chinese nationals, but there is no order barring them from entering the Philippines.
In Malaysia, four pneumonia cases have been confirmed. Local authorities have boosted security measures at all points of access to the country, installing thermal scanners to detect travellers with a fever. The government also temporarily suspended granting visas for all Chinese residents of Hubei province.
Yesterday, Singapore confirmed its fifth case of infection. All cases involve people from Wuhan who arrived in the city-state this month.
Cambodia announced its first case, whilst in Vietnam, the government is facing a backlash for failing to implement effective health checks along the border with China.