Hong Kong has expanded quarantine restrictions to arrivals from over 30 countries and regions after cases of the coronavirus surged globally. The measures came as local health authorities found that more than half of the recently confirmed cases in the city were imported from elsewhere.

Starting at midnight on Thursday, the 14-day mandatory self-quarantine rule will extend to cover arrivals from Ireland, the UK, US and Egypt, the government said on Sunday.

File photo: GovHK.

The announcement came one day after the government imposed the same quarantine restrictions on arrivals from 26 countries in the border-free Schengen Area in Europe, where cases of the SARS-like disease have spiked. The worst-hit country in Europe – Italy – had 24,747 infections and 1,809 deaths as of Sunday, followed by Spain with 7,844 infections, Germany  with 5,813 and France with 5,437.

First detected in Hubei, China, more than 169,000 people globally have been infected with Covid-19, whilst over 6,500 have died from the disease.

According to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP), more than half of the 46 confirmed cases recorded in Hong Kong over the past two weeks were considered to be imported ones.

As of Sunday, the number of confirmed cases in the city climbed to 148. The CHP said seven new patients, who tested positive for the virus over the weekend, had been abroad during the incubation period.

The countries visited by the infected persons included Tunisia, the UK, Spain, Canada, the US, Japan, Germany, Austria and France.

“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,” a spokesperson of the CHP said in a statement on Sunday.

File photo: GovHK.

“If it is unavoidable to travel to countries [or] areas outside Hong Kong, they should put on a surgical mask and continue to do so for 14 days upon their return to Hong Kong,” the spokesperson added.

One of the new cases involved a 29-year-old non-local male, who had been to Germany and Austria. The CHP said the patient had chatted with a friend in Austria without wearing a face mask on March 10, his friend was later tested positive for the virus in Germany.

According to Stand News citing hospital sources, the 37-year-old male French patient is Thierry Mandonnaud, the son of the founder of multinational beauty chain store Sephora. Sephora told the newspaper that no employees of Sephora Hong Kong had been affected by the virus: “Thierry Mandonnaud is not a staff member of Sephora Hong Kong, we wish he will get well soon.”

Evacuation

Some residents of Heng Tai House in Tai Po’s Fu Heng Estate evacuated on Saturday night, after three residents of the building were confirmed to have contracted the virus.

A 59-year-old resident became the 140th case confirmed on Saturday and a couple who had joined a tour group in Egypt were all living in unit 13 on different floors.

Heng Tai House. Photo: Stand News.

All people living between floors 29 and 34 in unit 13 and 14 were evacuated. Those displaying relevant symptoms were sent to hospital for isolation, while others were transferred to Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan for quarantine.

The CHP said toilet vent pipes would be inspected and environmental specimens had been collected for epidemiological investigation. Deep throat saliva specimens will also be collected for testing.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.