Hong Kong declares virus 'emergency'

Hong Kong declares virus 'emergency'

All official Lunar New Year celebrations cancelled as death toll reaches 41 and more countries report cases

A security officer in a protective mask checks the temperature of a passenger following the outbreak of a new coronavirus, at an expressway toll station on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, in Xianning, a city bordering Wuhan, on Friday. (Reuters photo)
A security officer in a protective mask checks the temperature of a passenger following the outbreak of a new coronavirus, at an expressway toll station on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, in Xianning, a city bordering Wuhan, on Friday. (Reuters photo)

Hong Kong on Saturday declared the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus an “emergency” — the city’s highest warning tier — and cancelled all official Chinese New Year celebrations.

“Today I declare the lifting of the response level to emergency,” chief executive Carrie Lam said, as the known death toll from the virus reached 41, with nearly 1,300 cases reported in China and several other countries including Thailand. 

Lam said all official visits to the mainland and official Lunar New Year celebrations would be scrapped immediately.

She also said she had sought the assistance from China’s State Council to ensure mask supplies were adequate.

The city’s health authorities have confirmed five coronavirus cases, all linked to Wuhan, where the virus first appeared, with a further 122 people being treated as suspected of having the disease. 

The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, originally scheduled for Feb 8 and 9, involves 70,000 people and the government “believes it has to be cancelled”, Lam said.

School holidays for non-tertiary students will be extended to Feb 17, she added. Hong Kong will also halt flights and rail services to Wuhan indefinitely. The city’s health authorities earlier said the confirmed number of cases of the virus had risen from two to five.

In the southern island province of Hainan, the city of Sanya has shut down all tourist sites to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the municipal government said on Saturday.

Sanya is one of the favourite tourist destinations during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday which lasts until Jan 30.

Earlier on Saturday, Haikou city, the capital of Hainan, said it would start a 14-day centralised medical observation for tourists from Hubei province, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Shanghai has shut down all cinemas while the coffee chain Starbucks has closed all shops and suspended delivery services in Hubei province for Lunar New Year holiday.

The Liberation Daily reported the Shanghai admnistration's decision on its online channel on Saturday.

The virus outbreak has prompted seven Chinese films that were set to premiere during the holiday to postpone screenings, forgoing what is usually the best week of the year for ticket sales.

Starbucks also said on Saturday it had closed all shops and suspended delivery services for the holiday in Hubei.

It said the move is out of “health concerns” for its customers and employees, according to a post on Weibo. The central province is home to nearly 60 million people..

Here are the places that have confirmed cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus as of Saturday:

China: Almost 1,300 people have been infected across China, the bulk of them in and around Wuhan. Nearly all of those who died were in the Wuhan region, but officials have confirmed two deaths elsewhere.

Macau, a gambling hub hugely popular with mainland tourists, has confirmed two cases.

In Hong Kong, five people are known to have the disease. Three of those cases were confirmed in the 24 hours to Saturday morning.

France: There are three known cases in France, the first European country to be affected by the outbreak.

One person is sick in Bordeaux and another is ill in Paris. A third person, who is a close relative of one of the other two, has also been confirmed to have the virus.

All three had recently travelled to China and had now been placed in isolation.

Japan: health authorities confirmed the country’s third case on Saturday.

One man was admitted to hospital on Jan 10, four days after his return from a visit to Wuhan.

Two people from the Chinese city — a man in his 40s and a woman in her 30s — have been treated in hospital for fever.

Australia: Australia on Saturday confirmed its first case, a man who arrived in Melbourne from China a week ago.

Authorities said they were contacting people who had travelled on the same plane from China and offering advice.

Malaysia: Malaysia confirmed its first three cases on Saturday. All are Chinese nationals on holiday from Wuhan who arrived in the country from Singapore two days earlier.

A 66-year-old woman and two boys, aged two and 11, are in a stable condition and are being kept in an isolation ward at a public hospital, Malaysia’s health minister said.

Nepal: Nepal said a 32-year-old man arriving from Wuhan had the deadly disease.

The patient, who was initially quarantined, recovered and was discharged. The government said that surveillance has been increased at the airport “and suspicious patients entering Nepal are being monitored”.

Singapore: Singapore has announced at least three cases — a 66-year-old man and his 37-year-old son, who arrived in Singapore on Monday from Wuhan, and a 52-year-old Wuhan woman, who arrived in the city-state on Tuesday.

South Korea: South Korea confirmed its second case of the virus on Friday.

The health ministry said a South Korean man in his 50s started experiencing symptoms while working in Wuhan on Jan 10. He was tested after his return earlier this week, and the virus was confirmed. The country reported its first case on January 20 — a 35-year-old woman who flew in from Wuhan. Both remain in treatment and are in stable conditions.

Taiwan: Taiwan has uncovered three cases so far. It has since advised against travel to Wuhan and Hubei province and on Friday said any arrivals from Wuhan would be rejected by immigration.

All arrivals from the rest of China — including Hong Kong and Macau — must fill out health declaration forms on arrival.

It has also banned the export of face masks for a month to ensure domestic supplies.

Thailand: Thailand has detected five cases so far — four Chinese nationals from Wuhan and a 73-year-old Thai woman who came back from the Chinese city this month.

Two of the Chinese patients were treated, and have since recovered and travelled back to China, the Public Health Ministry said this week.

United States: On Tuesday US health officials announced the country’s first case, a man in his 30s living near Seattle. On Friday a second case was announced — a woman in her 60s living in Chicago.

Both were treated and are recovering.

Vietnam: Vietnam confirmed two cases of the virus on Thursday. An infected man from Wuhan travelled to Ho Chi Minh City earlier this month and passed the virus on to his son.

Both are being treated in hospital and are stable, Vietnam health officials said.


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