- "The flow of people between the two places needs to be drastically reduced," Lam said.
- Many within Hong Kong's opposition has said these measures are too little, too late.
- The World Health Organization has warned of the risks of evacuation.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, announced a series of drastic new measures as the coronavirus continues to spread. Hong Kong will halt ferry and train services to the mainland, half the number of flights to mainland China, and suspend personal travel permits. Lam is also urging all Hong Kong residents to remain at home for the next 14 days.
“The flow of people between the two places needs to be drastically reduced,” she said. “Substantially reducing the flow of people between the two places is a means to control epidemic,” Lam added. A lot of legislators in Hong Kong’s opposition camp are certainly saying it’s too little too late.
Let’s put this into some sort of context. The border between Hong Kong and China is one of the busiest frontiers in the world. Forty million people crossed over it last year, just 2 million, for instance, in November. That’s in spite of these ongoing political protests, which have a strong anti-mainland sentiment to them, and that anti-mainland sentiment has been feeding into what’s been going on for the past week in Hong Kong. Coronavirus is stirring up an anti-mainland mood in Hong Kong.
The border is absolutely crucial. Many people in Hong Kong work in the mainland, they go over in the morning and come home in the evening. That’s now effectively going to stop. Now, Lam has stopped and declared a total closure of the border. This is a partial closure, and rail and ferry links are being cut. The number of flights between Hong Kong and the mainland is being halved, and that’s going to hit airlines like Cathay Pacific. A time when they’re already being squeezed economically because of the ongoing protests.
Lam has also lamented the fact that there has been a lot of misinformation. “One of the examples is that I would use Hong Kong’s resources to help China to fight the virus. This is ridiculous,” she said. Lam’s move appears to be an attempt to further insulate Hong Kong from the outbreak, which has now killed 106 people, while more than 4,500 Chinese are infected, and the virus has spread widely. Right across Southeast Asia, there are 14 confirmed cases in Thailand and eight in Hong Kong.
It’s also been found in Taiwan, Macau, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Elsewhere in the world, cases have been confirmed in Germany, France, Nepal, Australia, the US, as well as Canada. Many of those countries are working to get their citizens out of the Chinese city of Wuhan, which is at the epicenter of the outbreak. The World Health Organization has warned of the risks of evacuation.
“Evacuating staff or any anybody from an area always bears the slight possibility that they carry the virus with them or especially if there’s a possibility of asymptomatic or very small light symptoms. At the same time, I understand that countries who have been already talking about bringing their nationals back, which is of course in the full sovereignty in the interest of those member states have been taking measures or have announced measures to either contain these people on the way back or contain for a certain amount of time,” said Christian Lindmeir, of the World Health Organization.