Hong Kong has issued a red travel alert on the United States, Britain and Ireland and will impose a 14-day quarantine period on all arrivals from the three countries and Egypt from Thursday in an effort to halt the number of imported Covid-19 infections.
Compulsory home quarantine would apply to everyone, including Hong Kong residents, arriving in the city from March 19 who had been to any of the four countries in the previous 14 days, the government announced on Sunday night.
The red alert is the second level of a three-tier system and warns of a “significant threat” at the destination involved.
The Department of Health said earlier on Sunday that in the past two weeks 26 of 46 confirmed coronavirus cases were imported, while seven others involved patients who had visited places outside Hong Kong during the incubation period.
“In view of the proliferation of the disease and continuous increase in the number of cases reported around the world, members of the public are again urged to avoid all non-essential travel outside Hong Kong,” the department said.
The Centre for Health Protection would adjust policies against the epidemic by taking into account the risk in different countries, the department said.
“As the capacity of quarantine facilities in Hong Kong is limited at the moment, the government has decided that quarantine centres need to be reserved for close contacts of confirmed cases of Covid-19,” it said.
The city only has about 700 places left in quarantine facilities, with some reserved for the 3,400 Hongkongers to be evacuated from Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, in groups.
The city on Sunday recorded seven more confirmed cases, bringing the total tally to 148. Six of the latest cases were imported.
All eight members of a Hong Kong group that recently visited Egypt were last week confirmed to have Covid-19. Their tour guide was also infected.
There was already a red alert in place on South Korea, Iran, Egypt and the 26 European nations in the Schengen border-free region.
Those arriving from Iran; Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do in South Korea; and the Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto regions of Italy – the worst-hit country after China – face mandatory quarantine in government camps.
It was announced earlier that from Tuesday all arrivals, including Hong Kong residents, from the 26 countries in the Schengen region, which has a combined population of more than 420 million, would be required to undergo mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days.