Hong Kong to take drastic measures over coronavirus


The death toll from the outbreak has now topped 100, with more than 4,500 cases in mainland China.

Authorities in Hubei, the Chinese province at the center of the outbreak, earlier said an additional 1,300 cases had been confirmed, bringing the total in the region to over 2,700.

The majority of those are still in hospital, with more than 125 in critical condition. Between Sunday and Monday, there was a 65% jump in the number of reported cases in mainland China, from around 2,700 to over 4,500.

On Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a level 3 alert warning against “all nonessential travel to China” — its highest alert on a scale of 1 to 3.

First suspected case of human-to-human transmission of novel coronavirus in Japan

Japan’s health ministry confirmed two additional cases of the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to six.

The sixth patient — a man in his 60s in western Japan — has no history of visiting Wuhan, but is a bus driver who drove tour groups from the central Chinese city for nine days, according to the health ministry.

This is the first case of suspected human-to-human transmission in Japan from someone who did not travel to Wuhan.

On Sunday, China announced a ban on outbound group travel as part of measures to stop the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday that the government will “temporarily” close some of its borders with mainland China and travel permits to mainland Chinese tourists will stop being issued.

Here’s why that’s a big deal.

Legacy of SARS: Memories of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002 and 2003 run deep in Hong Kong, where 1,750 people were infected and more than 280 died of the disease.

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with ideal conditions for diseases to spread — in tightly packed subway train carriages and people living cheek by jowl in the city’s notoriously tiny apartments.

Initial suppression of information about the SARS outbreak after it was discovered in southern China heightened mistrust of the central Chinese government among many in Hong Kong.

So it should therefore come as no surprise that the outbreak of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan in December raised suspicions — and fears — in Hong Kong.

Politically sensitive time: Hong Kong’s move to close some of its borders comes amid eight months of ongoing anti-government protests that began against a now-scrapped China extradition bill, which have expanded to include demands for greater autonomy in the semi-autonomous city.

So it’s a particularly sensitive time for Hong Kong’s beleaguered leader, Carrie Lam, with recent polls showing her popularity at an all-time low in a divided city. However, calls to limit travel from mainland China came from lawmakers on both sides of Hong Kong’s political divide.