The Hong Kong government has announced that visitors crossing the border from mainland China will have to enter mandatory quarantine for 14 days.

The move comes following days of pressure upon the authorities to close the border entirely to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The new measure will take effect from Saturday in order to allow people to adjust their plans. It will apply to all arrivals – including Hongkongers – regardless of nationality, though it is unclear how arrivals may be forced to enter isolation.

The government has invoked special powers under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance to roll out the policy, Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters on Wednesday.

There have been over 24,619 confirmed cases of new infections worldwide and over 493 deaths including one in Hong Kong. Thousands of medics have been on strike since Monday, urging the government to close all of its checkpoints with the mainland – however, several land crossings, the airport and Kai Tak cruise terminal remain open.

File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Immigration facilities will be suspended at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and Ocean Terminal after the quarantine policy is activated.

HK$10 billion will be set aside to fight the virus, Lam said.

The symptoms of the new coronavirus resemble the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed more than 300 people in Hong Kong in 2003. Earlier on Wednesday, United and American Airlines both announced plans to temporarily suspend flights.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.