Quarantine orders kicked in on Thursday for all inbound travellers to Hong Kong amid a global spike in coronavirus cases.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Tuesday that arrivals from all territories except Taiwan and Macau were to undergo a compulsory 14-day quarantine. Travellers from mainland China have been subject to the requirement since February 8.
Hong Kong International Airport was quiet on the first evening of the order as the number of flights dwindled following the introduction of travel restrictions worldwide.
Last month saw a steep drop of nearly 68 per cent in the number of passenger arrivals and departures at the airport compared with January, according to the Airport Authority.
First detected in China’s Hubei province, more than 244,000 people globally have been infected with Covid-19, whilst over 10,000 have died from the disease. There have been 208 confirmed cases and four deaths in Hong Kong.
Besides from face masks, travellers wore raincoats, gloves and goggles as protective measures against the virus. Some also sprayed their luggage with disinfectants upon arrival.
The World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11.
Empty check-in counters at the departure hall. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.
A pandemic is defined as “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people,” according to the UN agency.
Most counters at the departure hall were closed.
Ms Li, a Hong Kong resident who arrived from Kuala Lumpur on Thursday told HKFP that she had not received the PIN needed to activate her profile on the government monitoring app, which was supposed to send text messages to her.
“I filled out the form at the immigration at around 5pm. After arriving home nearly 20 hours ago, I still haven’t got the PIN. It’s already been a day. Will my quarantine order be extended for another day or even longer? It’s confusing.”
Ms Chung, a Hong Kong resident who arrived back from an 11-day trip to Auckland said she was not informed about the restrictions on incoming passengers: “Who could have predicted this?”
Chung said she booked the trip seven months in advance with 18 other friends and that it was too late to change their return date.
Chung added her group encountered anti-Chinese sentiment during their vacation: “Our group were the odd ones who wore face masks and often received unfriendly glances.”
With some family members still in New Zealand, Chung said she would quarantine herself at a vacant apartment and avoid social contact during the 14 day period.
A man who gave his first name as Kevin said he arrived from Melbourne in Australia, where the government had announced a total ban on non-residents and non-nationals entering the country from Friday onwards.
He said he was from Cairns and had worked in Hong Kong for five years: “I really love Hong Kong… but I have to send to my kids back to Cairns since schools here were all closed.”
Kevin showed HKFP his electronic wristband, distributed by health officers at immigration. He said according to government instructions, he has to scan his QR code at home and walk around for two minutes in order for authorities to register his location.
Chief Executive visits the airport
Lam went to the airport with Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan and Airport Authority Chief Executive Fred Lam to inspect the implementation of the quarantine order on Thursday.
Lam said she urged relevant travellers to abide by quarantine measures: “In light of the number of confirmed cases in recent days, the threat of transmission of the virus into Hong Kong from overseas is huge.”
“As long as we stay united, Hong Kong will definitely win the battle against the epidemic,” she said in a government press release.
Contravening the quarantine requirement may result in a maximum fine of HK$25,000 and imprisonment for six months, according to a government gazette.