Travellers arriving in Hong Kong from any foreign country from Thursday onwards will be put under a 14-day home quarantine or medical surveillance, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Tesday, as she extended a red travel alert to cover all overseas nations. Lam said on Tuesday that the decision was made after top officials met expert advisers, who concluded that efforts to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus in the city should shift to control of imported infections, as the number of cases abroad had exceeded the total in mainland China, where the virus originated last December, reports the South China Morning Post newspaper.
The new restrictions, however, would not apply to arrivals from Macau or Taiwan. Those arriving from mainland China were required to isolate at home since last month.
Lam also announced that full resumption of school classes on April 20 was "quite impossible" and the government would continue to not organise any large-scale events.
"If we do not impose tougher measures at this stage, our previous efforts to prevent the disease from spreading throughout these two months could be completely wasted," the Chief Executive told the media.
She said that most of the cases confirmed in the previous two weeks in Hong Kong involved patients who had recently been abroad.
The new cases took the city's tally to 158, including a suspected case, while the death toll stood at four.
"If all these imported cases lead to a community outbreak, the consequence will be unimaginable and increase the burden on the public health system," the South China Morning Post quoted Lam as saying.
While announcing the new measure, she did not reveal a date for how long they would be in place.
"This will be a prolonged battle. Residents need to be psychologically prepared that it will be hard for us to completely control the outbreak within a short time," Lam said.
When asked why a travel ban had not been imposed in Hong Kong, she said such measures would be "too drastic".
"While we are still in a pandemic situation, we have to allow the city to continue, business to resume, otherwise we may have more problems on the economic front."