Authorities in Hong Kong have blocked residents of Hubei province from entering the Special Administrative Region (SAR) as of Sunday, January 26, amid fears that such residents, from the center of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, will spread the disease. The decision bans the entrance of persons who have been in Hubei province within the last 14 days; the ban excludes Hong Kong citizens.
Also, on Sunday, a group of protesters set on fire the lobby of a newly built residential building in Fanling district which was slated to serve as a coronavirus quarantine facility. Firefighters extinguished the blaze and riot police arrested one person in the incident. Hundreds of people blocked roads leading to the site earlier in the day to protest authorities' plans to convert the building into a coronavirus quarantine facility, which the authorities abandoned following the protest.
Additional anti-government protests are to be expected over the coming days. A heightened security presence and disruptions to transportation and business are to be anticipated near all demonstration sites. Clashes between protesters and police cannot be ruled out.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the implementation of the maximum health warning level in Hong Kong on January 25 after the city reported five confirmed coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases.
The first case of 2019-nCoV was reported on December 31. Authorities are still investigating the primary source of the outbreak, but the first cases were connected to a seafood market in Wuhan. Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have also been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency panel in Geneva (Switzerland) on January 23 to discuss the virus, ultimately deciding that it was too early to classify the outbreak as a "public health emergency of international concern." As of January 25, cases of the virus have been confirmed in France, Australia, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, the US, Vietnam, Singapore, Nepal, Macao, and Taiwan and suspected cases have been reported in Mexico and Cote d'Ivoire. Virus screening measures are being implemented at airports worldwide.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Individuals who plan to travel to or have recently returned from Hong Kong and mainland China, particularly Hubei province, are advised to monitor the situation and anticipate additional security checks at the airport. Individuals are advised to take precautionary measures to reduce their risk of contracting the virus:
- Avoid all contact with animals (dead or alive); avoid eating animal products that are undercooked; avoid all markets where animals are sold
- Avoid all close contact with people displaying symptoms of the disease (e.g. difficulties breathing)
- Frequently wash hands and wear a face mask
- Individuals within China developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to seek medical attention, avoid contact with other people, and wash hands regularly
- Adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments
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