The US State Department has authorised consular staff members to leave Hong Kong amid rising concerns over the new coronavirus.

The department said on Tuesday that the departure of non-essential staff and their family members will be allowed. Their choice to leave, however, would be voluntary.

The decision was made “out of an abundance of caution related to uncertainties associated with the 2019-nCoV outbreak and to ensure the safety and security of US government personnel and family members,” a spokesperson said.

US Consulate General, Hong Kong. File photo: Baycrest via Wikimedia Commons.

There have been 49 confirmed cases of the new SARS-like “covid-19” virus in Hong Kong, including one death. Globally, there have been 45,000 cases and over 1,100 deaths.

The US consulate in Hong Kong will remain open.

Hong Kong residents getting masks. File photo: Kaiser/United Social Press.

The move came after the US State Department’s allowed voluntary staff departures in mainland China.

Last month, similar notices were issued for US State Department staff members in China including Beijing and Shanghai. It has also evacuated consular employees in Wuhan, where the virus first started to spread.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.