The HKSAR Government has implemented a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus and protect the health of the community while maintaining Hong Kong’s position as an international city and aviation hub. The Government response is guided by three key principles: responding promptly, staying alert to the situation, and working in an open and transparent manner.
- On January 4, the Government activated the “Serious Response Level” for the “Preparedness and Response Plan for Novel Infectious Disease of Public Health Significance” (Preparedness and Response Plan).
- On January 25, the Government activated the “Emergency Response Level” of the Preparedness and Response Plan.
- The Chief Executive Carrie Lam chairs the Steering Committee-Command Centre to oversee concerted efforts to fight the disease. First meeting held on January 26.
- The Chief Executive has set up an expert advisory panel, comprising four world-renowned experts, to advise the Government in a direct and timely manner.
The Government will set up a $10 billion (US$1.28 billion) relief fund to provide resources needed to fight the virus.
Reducing the flow of people between Hong Kong and the Mainland
- From February 8, all persons arriving from the Mainland, or who had visited the Mainland in the preceding 14 days, will be subject to mandatory quarantine for 14 days (except for certain exempted persons carrying out essential cross-boundary services for the normal operation and daily needs of Hong Kong).
- From February 4, the Government closed all but two land boundary control points (Shenzhen Bay and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge) with the Mainland to stem the flow of cross-boundary travel.
- Entry points at Shenzhen Bay Port, Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge as well as Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) remain open with customs and health monitoring resources concentrated at these entry points.
- Health declarations for all incoming visitors are required at land-based control points and HKIA.
- From February 1, HKIA implemented body temperature checks for departing passengers (in line with WHO advice) in addition to temperature checks for all incoming passengers. Those with fever are prevented from boarding until cleared.
- From January 27, Hubei residents and those who have visited Hubei Province in the past 14 days (except Hong Kong residents) are barred from entering Hong Kong.
- On January 24, flights between Hong Kong and Hubei Province suspended.
- From January 30, flights between Hong Kong and other Mainland cities have been reduced by about half in stages.
- All rail services of the Hong Kong Section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and the Intercity Through Train are suspended.
- Immigration clearance facilities at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and Ocean Terminal are suspended.
- Ferry services to the Mainland and all Macao ferry services suspended from February 4.
Mainland authorities have suspended the Individual Visit Scheme for Mainland residents visiting Hong Kong.
- As a result of the above measures, the number of arrivals in Hong Kong via all control points (including airport) has dropped significantly. (Total arrivals on January 1 were 421,844; on January 15 they were 372,755; on January 31 they had dropped to 140,859. By February 4 they had further dropped to 69,812 and on February 9 the number fell to 29,015).
Enhanced quarantine arrangements for people at risk of carrying the infection
- People who have had close contact with confirmed coronavirus cases but are asymptomatic will be placed under quarantine at dedicated quarantine centres.
- People returning to Hong Kong after visiting Hubei Province in the past 14 days will be placed under compulsory quarantine for 14 days.
- From February 8, all persons arriving from the Mainland or who have visited the Mainland in the past 14 days will be subject to mandatory quarantine for 14 days (except for certain exempted persons carrying out essential cross-boundary services for the normal operation and daily needs of Hong Kong).
- Those placed under mandatory quarantine will be subject to regular and surprise checks (phone calls, visits) to ensure they are at the intended place of quarantine.
- A locally-developed smart bracelet connected to the user’s smartphone will be used in some cases to ensure people comply with quarantine requirements.
- Anyone who fails to comply will be subject to a maximum penalty of 6 months in prison and a $25,000 fine.
- Three holiday camps with a total of 97 units have been designated as quarantine centres. Additional facilities are being identified and prepared.
- All suspected cases will be admitted to isolation beds in hospitals.
- Rapid testing is available in public hospital laboratories to shorten the waiting time for test results.
Promoting “social distancing” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus
- Classes at all Hong Kong schools are suspended until March 1 at the earliest.
- A “work from home” arrangement has been implemented for Government employees, except for those providing emergency, essential and limited basic public services. This arrangement will remain in place until February 16 at earliest.
- The Government urges employers to make flexible work arrangements for employees according to their operational needs.
- The Government will continue to cancel or postpone events that attract large crowds.
Boosting supply of surgical masks
- To meet high demand, the Government is taking a multi-pronged approach to increase the supply of surgical masks including sourcing globally, increasing local production, liaising with mask suppliers in the Mainland and seeking assistance from relevant authorities to help supplies reach Hong Kong.
- Priorities include meeting the needs of healthcare workers and other personnel providing services to the public, as well as stabilising the market supply.
- Private and charitable organisations are urged to donate surgical masks to the underprivileged.
Transparent communication with the public
Daily briefings are held to regularly update the media and the public on the latest developments, including the number of cases and new measures related to novel coronavirus.
Press conferences are held by senior officials to announce major government decisions and anti-coronavirus measures etc.
The Centre for Health Protection has launched a dedicated webpage with useful information and updates on the latest developments: www.chp.gov.hk/en/features/102465.html.