Hong Kong announced drastic measures on Tuesday to reduce the number of people entering the city from mainland China to curb the spread of a SARS-like virus that has already killed more than 100 people.
With mainland travel groups already suspended, the number of Chinese who can visit the semi-autonomous city is being drastically reduced by the new measures that block individual travelers.
The number of flights from the mainland to Hong Kong is halved and all ferry services are being cut to “reduce people’s mobility from both sides,” said city guide Carrie Lam. Six of 14 border control points will be closed as of January 30th.
The financial center declared the new corona virus a public emergency and took action on Saturday to reduce the risk of further infections.
It is known that eight people in Hong Kong suffer from the disease. Six of them arrived via the high-speed line that connects the city with the Chinese mainland.
Lam said “with the approval of the central government,” mainland China will suspend individual visitor permits in 49 Chinese cities.
The announcement came after growing demands from some politicians and medical experts for the mainland border to be completely closed to non-Hong Kong residents.
“The epidemic has spread to many Chinese provinces. Blocking visitors from Hubei cannot help Hong Kong much,” said democratic legislator Helena Wong on Tuesday.
Important checkpoints on the land border with the neighboring mainland city of Shenzhen, China, remain open.
“If we close the border and don’t let anyone enter and leave, the impact will be far-reaching,” said Lam.
“We appeal to Hong Kong residents to return to the city from the mainland as soon as possible,” Lam said, asking people to stay home for 14 days.
The government previously said it would shut down a number of public facilities to “avoid gatherings.”
Sports centers, parks, swimming pools, beaches, campsites and attractions, including museums, are all closed.
The city’s leisure and cultural services department said events in these locations would be canceled until further notice.
Officials have also announced that all schools will extend their New Year holidays until mid-February and officials have been instructed to work from home.
Except for the locals in Hong Kong, anyone who has visited the epicenter of the outbreak, Hubei Province, in the past two weeks was denied entry to Hong Kong as of Monday.