The Hong Kong government announced on Tuesday, March 10, that individuals from or having traveled through specific areas in five countries affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) in the 14 days prior to their scheduled entry to the territory will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine in a designated facility. The order will come into effect from 00:00 (local time) on Saturday, March 14, and includes: Italy; Bourgogne-Franche-Comte and Grand Est (France); North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany); Hokkaido (Japan); and La Rioja, Madrid, and Basque Country (Spain). Quarantine orders remain in place as of Tuesday for individuals traveling from South Korea and Iran in the preceding 14 days. The country's Security Bureau updated its travel alerts to warn against all non-essential travel to the aforementioned areas, in addition to previously issued red alerts (second-highest on a three-tier scale) for Egypt, Iran, South Korea, Lebanon, Pakistan, and the southeastern Turkish provinces. Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the measures and travel restrictions in place are being reviewed on an almost daily basis, and warned that more restrictions are possible in the near term.
Authorities previously announced that schools will remain closed until Monday, April 20, at the earliest.
As of Monday, March 9, Hong Kong has reported 116 cases of COVID-19 and three related deaths. Further international spread of COVID-19 is expected in the coming days and weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 28, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the risk of spread and the risk of impact of the virus is "very high" at the global level.
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.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone non-essential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.
Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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