The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance (HAEA) union continued their strike on Wednesday, February 5, demanding that government completely close the border to travelers entering Hong Kong from China. Striking medical workers are being asked to gather outside eight hospitals across Hong Kong from 14:00 until 18:00 (local time) on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, HAEA members gathered outside of the Chief Executive’s office in Admiralty in an attempt to meet with Chief Executive Carrie Lam. While Lam did not meet with the protesters, the group reportedly delivered a petition signed by tens of thousands of people demanding the border with China be closed. The union is also calling for the government to implement measures to ensure there is a sufficient supply of protective face masks for the population.
According to the HAEA, over 7000 members participated in similar demonstrations on Tuesday, February 4. Further strike actions are likely over the coming days. A heightened security presence and localized traffic disruptions are anticipated around all protest sites. Disruptions to medical services are possible at hospitals throughout Hong Kong during the strikes.
As of Wednesday morning, 18 cases of coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have been confirmed in Hong Kong, including one fatality. All border crossing points except the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, Shenzhen Bay Port, and Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) have been closed by the authorities and further closures are possible over the near term.
Chief Executive Lam implemented the maximum health warning level in Hong Kong on January 25 after the city reported five confirmed coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases.
The first case of 2019-nCoV was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in 24 countries worldwide besides China, as well as in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. Human-to-human transmission has been confirmed in Germany, Japan, the US, and Vietnam. Virus screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the ongoing novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak is a "public health emergency of international concern."
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing.
Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Potentially impacted individuals are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries and consider rebooking options, if needed, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments. Individuals in Hong Kong are also advised to confirm doctor's appointments, to anticipate longer waiting times in medical facilities for the duration of the strike, and to avoid any protests.
Individuals are advised to take precautionary measures to reduce their risk of contracting the virus:
- Avoid all contact with animals (dead or alive); avoid eating animal products that are undercooked; avoid all markets where animals are sold
- Avoid all close contact with people displaying symptoms of the disease (e.g. difficulties breathing)
- Frequently wash hands, wear a face mask
- Individuals within China developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to seek medical attention, avoid contact with other people, and wash hands regularly
- Adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments
- Travelers returning from China developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid spreading the disease