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13 Feb 2020 | 05:31 AM UTC

Hong Kong: Government extends school closures until March 16 due to COVID-19 /update 9

Government extends the suspension of schools until March 16 due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak; further spread of COVID-19 possible over the near term, follow government directives

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HKG

Event

Government officials announced on Thursday, February 13, that schools will remain closed until at least Monday, March 16, due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Civil servants are also encouraged to work from home until Sunday, February 23 to prevent the spread of the virus.

On Wednesday, February 5, Hong Kong authorities announced that all arrivals from mainland China will be put into home quarantine for 14 days, in efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the coming days and weeks.

Context

As of February 13, Hong Kong has confirmed 50 COVID-19 cases. Chief Executive Carrie Lam implemented the maximum health warning level in Hong Kong on January 25 after the city reported its first five confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The first case of COVID-19 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 28 countries and territories worldwide. 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 COVID-19 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.

Advice

Individuals in Hong Kong are advised to monitor developments, avoid all protests and demonstrations, prepare for disruptions to transportation and business around protest sites, confirm the status of their flights prior to departure for the airport, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.

Individuals are also advised to avoid wearing black and white colors around protest zones or rallies as they are associated with protesters.

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 and wear a face mask
  • Adhere to all instructions issued by the 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.