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25 Jan 2020 | 07:27 AM UTC

Hong Kong: Maximum health warning level implemented January 25

Maximum health warning level implemented amid ongoing Wuhan coronavirus outbreak

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Event

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the implementation of the maximum health warning level in Hong Kong on Saturday, January 25, after the city reported five confirmed coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases.

As part of the process to prevent further spread of the ongoing novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV) outbreak, Mrs Lam announced that all flights and trains from Wuhan (Hubei province) were to be cancelled until further notice.

While no restrictions are implemented on travel to other cities, travelers arriving from mainland China will be required to complete a medical questionnaire.

A series of events including the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon are cancelled while schools and universities are to remain closed until February 17.

Context

The first case of 2019-nCOV was reported on December 31. Authorities are still investigating the primary source of the outbreak, but the first cases were connected to a seafood market in Wuhan. Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have also been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency panel in Geneva (Switzerland) on January 23 to discuss the virus, ultimately deciding that it was too early to classify the outbreak as a "public health emergency of international concern." As of January 25, cases of the virus have been confirmed in France, Australia, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the US, Vietnam, Singapore, Nepal, Macao and Taiwan and suspected cases have been reported in Mexico. Virus screening measures are being implemented at airports worldwide. 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 who plan to travel to or have recently returned from China, particularly Hubei province, are advised to monitor the situation and anticipate additional security checks at the airport. 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 the local authorities and their home governments