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Radio Free Asia

Hong Kong Medics to End Strike as City Imposes Quarantine on Travelers

2020-02-07 -- Thousands of Hong Kong medical workers voted to end their strike on Friday, as the city's government warned that anyone breaking a mandatory 14-day quarantine could be jailed for up to six months.

Some 3,600 members of the newly formed Hospital Authority Employees Alliance voted to end the strike, which had been called to demand the total closure of Hong Kong's border with mainland China to put an end to an influx of coronavirus infections.

The union also wanted adequate protective equipment for hospital staff and a promise that the Hospital Authority woudn't retaliate against striking workers.

The decision came after the union said that talks with the Hospital Authority hadn't progressed, because management had failed to bring anything to the table.

Union vice-chair Ivan Law said the body that runs government hospitals in Hong Kong hadn't prepared any facts or figures about their plans to protect staff from the coronavirus epidemic or to support them.

Meanwhile, the city's second-in-command Matthew Cheung said that anyone breaching orders to remain in quarantine for the 14-day incubation period of the coronavirus could face prosecution and six-month jail term.

Anyone arriving from mainland China will be ordered to remain under quarantine for 14 days with no visitors, and can call 24-hour hotlines to access food, help, or other supplies.

Travelers planning to stay for less than 14 days will be denied entry to Hong Kong.

Essential transportation staff will be under constant medical surveillance if they need to cross the border for their jobs.

The measures came amid a surge in arrivals to 145,000 on Thursday, ahead of the implementation of the new quarantine restrictions.

"This is understandable and to be expected, because many people will be returning to Hong Kong ahead of the 14-day compulsory quarantine measures which begin tomorrow," security secretary John Lee told reporters.

"Since Jan. 30, the number of arrivals has fallen by 75 percent, although this is a partial figure, and does not reflect the overall situation," he said.

Long lines at border crossing

Media footage showed long lines at the Shenzhen Bay border crossing, with passengers scrambling to complete health declaration forms in the immigration hall, or lining up in masks with their luggage to catch the bus into the city.

Some travelers said they had come to stock up on daily necessities before heading back to mainland China, where they were based.

Some people said they had deliberately come home early to escape the quarantine measures.

"If we had just left it another two days, we might not not be allowed in," a traveler surnamed Chu told RFA.

Some 3,600 people remain confined aboard the World Dream cruise vessel at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Cruise Terminal after several people reported fever or respiratory symptoms. The 33 crew members who reported symptoms earlier have all tested negative for the coronavirus.

A quarantined passenger surnamed Lei said the mood aboard is fairly calm, with supplies being delivered daily in spite of some shortages in Hong Kong supermarkets.

"Nobody here has been diagnosed yet, the crew included," he said. "[Officials] are coming to take our temperature; it's normal to minimise large gatherings in the event of an epidemic."

Call for medications

A family member of one passenger, surnamed Cheung, said some relatives needed deliveries of medications for existing health problems, and that their families had had to find and deliver them to the ship.

"[The government] doesn't help at all," Cheung said. "Couldn't they have told us a bit sooner that it was going to be 14 days?"

Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong said 17 passengers and family members have requested assistance so far after running out of medication, and called on the department of health to arrange for their medications to be supplied.

Reported by Tseng Yat-yiu, Lau Siu-fung and Man Hoi-tsan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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