Hong Kong declares Wuhan virus as 'emergency', closes schools & cancels major events

Expert warned that this was the last window to stop the outbreak at the border.

Zhangxin Zheng | January 26, 2020, 03:56 AM

On Jan. 25, Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam elevated the response level to the novel coronavirus to an "emergency", which is the highest tier of response.

Five cases of the novel coronavirus infection have been confirmed in Hong Kong as of Jan. 25, 2020.

Out of which, four of them came through the high-speed rail terminal that connects Hong Kong to mainland China.

Response level raised to "Emergency"

Lam held a 90-minute press conference after an emergency meeting with health officials upon returning from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

She said that the response level is raised from "Serious" to "Emergency" as the government believes that the coronavirus will have "high and imminent" impact on Hong Kong people.

She added that the highest tier of response level will allow the Hong Kong government to "stay on top of the situation" and she will chair the interdepartmental coordination so as to decide and act swiftly.

Four medical experts from the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University will directly report to Lam, South China Morning Post reported.

Two of whom had warned that the novel coronavirus is "no weaker" than SARS and this was the last window to stop the outbreak at the border.

Lam also said in response to one of the reporters that she does not think that the government's response is too late or slow despite her absence in the country when she's at Davos.

Lam said that she was in touch with the Secretary for Health Sophia Chan and Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung when she was in Davos and "there has been no case of waiting for me to get back”.

Stepping up measures against virus outbreak

At the press conference, Lam also announced that Hong Kong will stop all flights and high-speed trains between Wuhan and Hong Kong until they are certain that they are "fully in control" of the virus outbreak.

All visitors from mainland China will have to sign a health declaration form at all terminals including the airport and piers.

Any false declarations may face up to a fine of HK$5,000 (S$870) or a six-month jail.

Hong Kong will also be stepping up measures to reduce the congregation of people.

Major and large-scale events with large audiences will be cancelled.

These events include marathons, football matches and Chinese New Year celebrations.

Closure of schools from kindergarten to universities will also extend beyond Chinese New Year until Feb. 17 and students are urged to stay at home as much as possible during this period.

Top photo via screenshots of HKFP/Facebook