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04 Feb 2020 | 10:58 AM UTC

Hong Kong: First coronavirus (2019-nCoV) death recorded in Hong Kong February 4 /update 5

First coronavirus (2019-nCoV) death recorded in Hong Kong February 4; further spread of the virus likely over the near term

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Event

Hong Kong health officials reported the administrative region's first death due to coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on Tuesday, February 4. This is the second death connected to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak to be confirmed outside of mainland China, where the outbreak originated; the first was reported on Sunday, February 2, in the Philippines.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Monday, February 3, that most border crossing points with mainland China were to be closed as of 23:59 (local time) on Monday to prevent further spread of the virus. All border crossing points except the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, Shenzhen Bay Port, and Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) will be closed until further notice. The announcement came after over 2000 public health workers went on strike, demanding that the border be completely closed. Further border closures are possible over the near term.

The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance union announced on Tuesday, February 4, that essential and non-essential staff will go on strike to demand that the government meet their demands. Striking staff reportedly gathered outside of the Hospital Authority building in Ma Tau Wai starting at 10:00 on Tuesday. According to media reports, the strike on Monday “seriously affected” services, including operations, and similar disruptions are anticipated on Tuesday. A heightened security presence and localized traffic disruptions are anticipated around all protest sites.

Context

As of February 4, Hong Kong has confirmed 17 cases of 2019-nCoV. 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 more than 26 countries and territories worldwide. 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.

Advice

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