Hong Kong Free Press HKFP https://www.hongkongfp.com Hong Kong's Independent English Language News Wed, 19 Feb 2020 03:42:13 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Let’s resist xenophobia and fight the coronavirus with empathy and compassion https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/02/19/lets-resist-resist-prejudice-xenophobia-fight-coronavirus-empathy-compassion/ Wed, 19 Feb 2020 03:00:02 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=244587 Tailor your message to your audience – that is rule number one for any successful marketer. But what if your audience is already overwhelmed by fear of a virus outbreak and angry at the way it is being handled, and your message is a plea for empathy and solidarity that has been repeated ad nauseam by others? Will […]

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Tailor your message to your audience – that is rule number one for any successful marketer. But what if your audience is already overwhelmed by fear of a virus outbreak and angry at the way it is being handled, and your message is a plea for empathy and solidarity that has been repeated ad nauseam by others? Will people listen?

Last Tuesday, a local media outlet posted on Facebook the EOC’s appeal to the public to avoid a NIMBY (“not-in-my-backyard”) attitude towards quarantine centres and clinics for persons affected by the novel coronavirus. The Commission also reminded shop owners that under the Race Discrimination Ordinance, it may be unlawful to indiscriminately turn away Putonghua-speaking customers, as certain ethnic groups, including Chinese, may be unable to meet such a language-specific requirement and therefore subject to unfavourable treatment.

equal opportunities commission

File photo: inmediahk.net.

Within an hour the post had drawn a heated response from netizens. They argued that residents were resisting the facilities not because of a NIMBY mentality, but rather because they feel that they haven’t been consulted earnestly, and alternative siting proposals had not been given due consideration. The contagion, they believe, was being fuelled by delays and inadequacies in border control more than anything else. As their logic goes, preaching empathy misses the point and is akin to sitting on a moral high horse, dodging the “real issues” on the ground.

The EOC is not trying to force-feed compassion to Hongkongers. If anything, our previous studies about the siting of mental health and other social welfare facilities have stressed the need for the Government to take the lead in dispelling myths, engage in genuine dialogue with the local community and, where appropriate, incorporate their views into its decision. We believe there can be, and should be, rational discussion, debates even, about governance, policies and consultation processes.

But there is a clear line between constructive criticism and unhinged bigotry. When that boundary is blurred, the same space where people exchange views on public policies can easily devolve into a breeding ground for prejudice, hatred and xenophobia, whether it is social media, messaging apps or online forums.

protest against a quarantine centre

A protest against a quarantine centre. Photo: Chau Ho Man/United Social Press.

Put simply, it is one thing to discuss stricter border control; it is another to ridicule the cultures of an ethnic group or reject a customer because of the language she or he speaks. The former contributes to the city’s battle against the epidemic; the latter is just racism.

The problem, of course, is global. From boarding school students getting attacked with eggs in the UK to the headline “Yellow Alert” in the French newspaper Le Courrier Picard and the trending Twitter hashtag #ChineseDon’tComeToJapan, Chinese (and in some cases, Asians) around the globe are being equated with the virus itself – the kind of sweeping generalisation that defines racism and ignores reason.

Back home, as much as the rapidly-spreading virus is stirring up new disputes and old grievances, we Hongkongers have shown ourselves to be capable of compassion, regardless of our differences: a group of medical students have produced a video about everyday precautionary measures with subtitles in Tagalog, Urdu, Hindi, Nepali, Bahasa Indonesia and other ethnic minority languages; NGOs have made similar videos in sign language for those with hearing impairment; people are donating masks to elders who live alone and have trouble going out to secure protective equipment; the EOC also operates the Facebook page EMbRACE to share coronavirus updates in ethnic minority languages.

It is this sense of togetherness, not labelling and stigmatisation, that will help us put up our best fight against the virus. This may be an unpalatable message, but it is one that the EOC will always stand by.


Ricky Chu Man-kin is the chairperson of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission.

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Coronavirus: 70-year-old dies, bringing Hong Kong toll to two https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/02/19/breaking-70-year-old-dies-bringing-hong-kong-coronavirus-death-toll-two/ Wed, 19 Feb 2020 02:34:53 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=244673 A 70-year-old male Hong Kong resident diagnosed with the novel coronavirus has died at Princess Margaret Hospital, bringing the city’s death toll to two. A spokesperson for the hospital confirmed that the patient died on Wednesday morning after his condition deteriorated. The man was the 55th confirmed case in Hong Kong and was classified as possibly […]

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A 70-year-old male Hong Kong resident diagnosed with the novel coronavirus has died at Princess Margaret Hospital, bringing the city’s death toll to two.

A spokesperson for the hospital confirmed that the patient died on Wednesday morning after his condition deteriorated.

Princess Margaret Hospital

Princess Margaret Hospital. File Photo: GovHK.

The man was the 55th confirmed case in Hong Kong and was classified as possibly locally transmitted.

According to the Centre for Health Protection, the patient had underlying illnesses. He was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital last Wednesday after a fall at his home at Shek Lei Estate in Kwai Chung, where he lived alone. He tested positive for the virus upon displaying symptoms of a fever.

The Centre previously said he travelled to mainland China through the Lok Ma Chau Control Point on January 22. He displayed symptoms such as shortness of breath and a cough 10 days afterwards.

There have been more than 75,000 confirmed cases of the novel virus with a death toll of over 2,000 globally. Hong Kong recorded 62 cases and two deaths of the SARS-like disease as of Wednesday morning.

flu virus mask mtr

Photo: Kaiser/United Social Press.

Asked about the latest fatality, Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung told reporters at the Legislative Council: “The disease is under control but we must be cautious.”

The first death involved a 39-year-old local man who contracted the virus outside of Hong Kong. He passed away on February 4.

The Department of Health and Centre for Health Protection will hold a press conference at 4pm.

More to follow.

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Coronavirus: Why we need to rethink about our relationship with wild animals https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/02/19/coronavirus-need-rethink-relationship-wild-animals/ Wed, 19 Feb 2020 02:00:50 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=243820 By Nicolo Ludovice Right before the year ended on 31 December 2019, cases of pneumonia of unknown origin and etiology were reported in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. By January 7, a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified as the causative virus by Chinese authorities. Studies have consistently identified the source of the virus, namely, […]

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By Nicolo Ludovice

Right before the year ended on 31 December 2019, cases of pneumonia of unknown origin and etiology were reported in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. By January 7, a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified as the causative virus by Chinese authorities.

Studies have consistently identified the source of the virus, namely, the Huanan seafood market. According to the latest The Lancet study, 49 of the 99 patients had direct exposure to the market where live animals were also on sale. This included (but was not limited to) poultry, bats, marmots, and snakes – all found in one location.

2019-nCoV

2019-nCoV. Photo: The University of Hong Kong 2020.

The Chinese authorities are looking into implementing a ban on illegal wildlife trade and heighten the surveillance of wet markets.

“It is necessary to strengthen market supervision, resolutely ban and severely crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trade, and control major public health risks from the source,” the Politburo Standing Committee said in a statement in response to their “shortcomings” in response to the outbreak.

Some writers have called for a ban on wildlife trade and consumption, citing historical linkages between animals and diseases, and sociological impact. While these are extremely important policies to consider in reducing the instances of animal disease transmission, it might also be prudent to also rethink the relationships that we have with animals as situated in their context.

Certainly, the coronavirus (CoV) affects the health of both animals and humans. Respiratory diseases and gastrointestinal conditions appear in domestic animals. For humans, the CoV mostly affected the upper respiratory tract and gastrointestinal tract, from mild self-limiting diseases such as the common cold to more severe forms such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Since its discovery in the early 1970s, a variety of pathological conditions in domestic animals were attributed to CoV infections, such as canine respiratory coronavirus, bovine coronavirus, feline coronavirus, to name a few. The adaptability of CoVs differs in both animals and humans. Some of the CoVs are already adapted in humans (i.e., 229E, OC43, NL63, and HKU1 Human Coronaviruses), causing mild diseases in humans with weak immune systems. However, in the case of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), these CoVs are not adapted in humans and are found mainly in animal reservoirs.

Transmission of Coronaviruses

Intra- and Inter-species Transmission of Coronaviruses. Source: Su et al. (June 2016). “Epidemiology, Genetic Recombination, and Pathogenesis of Coronaviruses.” Trends in Microbiology 24(6), 490-502.

The transmission of disease from a vertebrate animal to a human is known as a zoonotic spillover. Spillover events are what concerns disease ecologists, scientists, and public health officials because these are highly undetectable. When it occurs, the zoonotic disease incubates into the new host for several days before it manifests and spreads to the new host’s population, with a wide range of lethal infections. More importantly, spillover events present a global public health burden the gravity of spillovers is aligned with ecological, epidemiological, and socio-cultural determinants.

Most of the fatal spillovers in recent history are brought about by constant exposure of wild animal reservoirs in spaces with dense human activity and/or domestic animals. The masked palm civets (Paguma larvata) were implicated as the route of the exposure of SARS-CoV in Guangdong Province in China in 2002. However, a closer examination of masked palm civets in the wild showed that they do not necessarily have the SARS-CoV. They only began to serve as intermediate hosts when they were placed in close proximity with other species, most especially the wild bats. These bats had detectable levels of antibodies against SARS-CoV. The recombination of the SARS-CoV was proposed through the evolutionary relationship between the two species which were found in the live animal markets in Guangdong Province, China, and sold off as exotic delicacies in restaurants.

But there were spillover events that occurred without the direct consumption of wild animals. In 1997, an influenza A(H5N1) infection was first detected in Hong Kong, receiving worldwide attention. Previously thought as an influenza virus that was confined only to avian species, influenza A(H1N1) was isolated for the first time from a human. It was first detected in May 1997, with no other cases reported for 6 months. Then, from November to December 1997, the second wave of infections occurred, with 17 additional cases resulting in six deaths. Epidemiological evidence suggested that fatal outbreaks of avian influenza occurred in the poultry farms in northwestern Hong Kong, with chicken coming into contact with geese pathogen from Guangdong Province in China. Most sources of live poultry also came from this province, which was postulated as the pathways of transmission. Sequencing suggested that direct chicken-to-human transmission of the virus occurred.

In both cases, animal geographies most especially farms, poultries, live animal markets, wet markets, and seafood markets are involved. Common throughout the East and Southeast Asian region, the concept of the ‘wet’ market as opposed to the ‘dry’ market served as a colonial measure that emphasized the boundaries between sanitary and unsanitary products. The conditions of these places contributed to the speed and risk of spillovers between animals and humans. Even without intending to consume wild animals, poor market conditions and animal handling allowed for greater exposure to unknown diseases.

In addition, the marketplace as a centerpoint for human and animal interaction is embedded in a network that connects the farm and wild areas to the household. It is also a space where those who are involved in the trade are competing against larger players. In a recent study by medical anthropologists, wet markets in China and across Asia are sites of struggle, where farmers, producers, and vendors face everyday pressure from large-scale industrial producers. According to them, “breeding wild animals can be a path towards a steady income when it remains a struggle to live off the land in rural China.”

The dissolution and ban of wildlife trade and consumption remove legitimate spaces for which rural farmers can participate in an industry that is heavily geared towards livestock farming. By removing such spaces, animal trade can be replaced with black markets sold from households or nondescript areas away from police surveillance and disease monitoring agencies. Thus, while wildlife ban may seem to be an easier solution, this move may pave way for a more difficult detection of zoonotic spillovers and animal diseases.

What is suggested is to look into the activities that allow for zoonotic spillovers to persist. A large portion of these spillovers is caused by human activity. The continued expansion of farmlands into wild areas, conversion of agricultural lands into a residential or industrial complex, and increased consumption of meat-based products are human transgressions to animal spaces. As more wild animals come into contact with domestic animals and humans, wild viruses and parasites that are not mapped out emerge and transgress human populations.

But it also entails understanding that the global solutions we are looking for are very context-specific. As we discover from the experience of this outbreak, Wuhan City is entangled in a complex network of global connections and local traditions. It has an international airport that connects its population of more than 11 million people. Community-level solutions may provide alternatives to wildlife trade, promote sanitary marketplaces, or educate food practices. As we try to research for new vaccines for the emerging infectious diseases, reevaluating our relationship with animals becomes a concomitant to public health.

Perhaps if we start seeing animals beyond as objects to be consumed, we may realize how closely intertwined they are into our health. Until we revisit our relationship with them, we should expect more zoonotic spillovers in the unforeseeable future.


Nicolo Ludovice is a historian specializing in animals and health in Southeast Asia, and currently completing his PhD at The University of Hong Kong. His works broadly cover histories of science, technology, and medicine including biomedicine, public health, and zoonoses in the region. In his writing breaks, he can be found travelling or joining dragon boat races.

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Coronavirus: Stranded by Manila’s travel ban, Hong Kong domestic workers face financial havoc and an uncertain future https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/02/18/coronavirus-stranded-manilas-travel-ban-hong-kong-domestic-workers-face-financial-havoc-uncertain-future/ Tue, 18 Feb 2020 09:02:33 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=244369 Mimi Rios has to pay 5,000 Philippine pesos (HK$768) for her son’s college exam fee this week – a small fortune she can only afford thanks to her job as a Hong Kong domestic worker. But she is one of many migrant workers facing an uncertain financial future after Manila imposed a ban on travellers from the […]

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Mimi Rios has to pay 5,000 Philippine pesos (HK$768) for her son’s college exam fee this week – a small fortune she can only afford thanks to her job as a Hong Kong domestic worker. But she is one of many migrant workers facing an uncertain financial future after Manila imposed a ban on travellers from the city over the deadly coronavirus outbreak, leaving them stranded and anxious.

Over 73,000 people in over two dozen countries have been infected with the novel virus, which was first detected in the Chinese province of Hubei. Among them have been over 1,800 recorded deaths including one in the Philippines, prompting President Rodrigo Duturte to extend an entry ban to all visitors from China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Philippines Manila face mask coronavirus China

People buying protective masks at a medical supplies store in Manila on January 31, 2020. File photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP.

“I’m so worried because I don’t have any income,” Rios, 48, told HKFP. “This is a basic necessity because all of my income is for my children. What if I can’t go back? How am I going to support my family?”

‘Worried’

Hong Kong is home to 380,274 foreign domestic workers, according to government statistics – more than half of whom are from the Philippines. Many make the momentous decision to move in search of higher wages to support their loved ones, spending months apart while sending cash home. But with the uncertainty of the travel ban, domestic workers like Rios have been forced to count their pennies.

“I’m scared, of course. In the Philippines, it’s very difficult to find a job,” she said. “For now, I can still pay [college fees] but in the coming weeks – no. I don’t know where to get the money. Maybe I can ask for an advance from my employer, but I’m not working, so I don’t know how to ask them for it.”

The mother of three said she is wracked with fear that if the ban continues, her employer will find another domestic worker – a prospect which will deal a devastating blow to her family’s financial security.

“I am worried my boss will replace me because they still need our services,” she said, though her employer has vowed to wait for now.

domestic worker maid helper

File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Rios’ concerns have been compounded by the loss of her mother from a stroke, prompting her to rush home last month. Little did she know then that her plan to return last Sunday would be indefinitely postponed.

She said the medical costs of her mother’s treatment have drained her savings, forcing her to seek financial support from the Philippine’s Overseas Workers Welfare Administration – offering P10,000 (HK$1,536) per eligible person amid the crisis. It is a safety net that has done little to quell her unease.

“I’m not sure, some said they only received P5,000 (HK$768),” she said. “It’s very insufficient for us if we’re staying here for a long time. Things here are expensive.”

Recruitment platform HelperChoice found in a survey of 921 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, released last Wednesday, that 40 per cent had close friends or relatives impacted by the ban while 16 per cent have been personally affected.

‘Lose a nice employer’

Faced with the prospect of unemployment, Pinky Guilaran has also been shaken by the sudden travel restrictions that have left her with little time to prepare.

“It’s not easy finding a job at my age. We all know there’s age discrimination,” the 43-year-old told HKFP.

flu virus mask mtr

Photo: Kaiser/United Social Press.

The “breadwinner” in her family, Guilaran said she has only meagre savings after putting all of her income into her sister’s education and building a house.

She added that her boss of 10 years has already begun to look for a new domestic worker: “My employer told me it’s like she’s lost a leg when I’m not around… I’m worried I’ll lose a nice employer.”

But Hong Kong foreign domestic workers stranded in the Philippines have reason to be optimistic. Duterte’s administration announced last Friday its decision to relax its travel restrictions on visitors from Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat also told CNN last Saturday that the government is “looking into” loosening restrictions on travellers from China’s special administrative regions.

Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo: Wikicommons.

Filipino community leaders in Hong Kong met with Consul General Raly Tejada on Monday to submit a joint petition, signed by 134 migrant organisations, to loosen travel restrictions.

A technical working group by the Philippine government will meet on Tuesday to assess and decide on the future of the ban.

The priority for Hong Kong’s foreign domestic workers like Rios and Guilaran is to both find the money to stay afloat and avoid falling victim to a virus that has gripped international attention.

“It’s troublesome for me because the most important thing is hygiene,” Rios said. “We know how to handle ourselves when we’re working. We are trying our best to be healthy in order to support our families – there’s no need to ban workers from travelling.”

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Video: Leaked clips show top cops dining with pro-police celebs and retired officer convicted of assault https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/02/18/video-leaked-clips-show-top-cops-dining-pro-police-celebs-retired-officer-convicted-assault/ Tue, 18 Feb 2020 08:17:21 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=244522 Leaked video footage has emerged of top cops – including police chief Chris Tang – attending a banquet with pro-police celebrities and a retired officer convicted of assault. The viral clips came weeks after a similar video was widely shared appearing to show top police brass dining at the same restaurant as alleged gangsters. In […]

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Leaked video footage has emerged of top cops – including police chief Chris Tang – attending a banquet with pro-police celebrities and a retired officer convicted of assault.

The viral clips came weeks after a similar video was widely shared appearing to show top police brass dining at the same restaurant as alleged gangsters.

Police chief Chris Tang and convicted officer Frankly Chu.

Police chief Chris Tang and convicted officer Frankly Chu.

In the latest clip, the Commissioner of Police told the crowd that “[his] heart was beating fast” because he was thrilled to be at the party with his idols, including actor Jackie Chan, singer Alan Tam and all-round entertainer Eric Tsang.

The celebrities are known for their pro-China stance and open support of the force during last year’s pro-democracy protests and unrest.

Police celebrity dinner

Hong Kong Police chief Chris Tang attended a banquet with pro-police celebrities on February 16. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

Tang joked that he learned how to be a policeman from actors like Chan and Alex Fong, who had starred in police films: “I learned everything from you. I didn’t know how to be a police officer, but I learned it while watching [your films].”

Tang also put his hands on Tsang’s shoulders and told him that his comedy shows had helped him to be eloquent at District Council meetings.

“Do you know why I was so good at speaking at the district council? Because I learned from Eric’s [comedy shows],” Tang said.

police celebrity dinner

Tang wrapped up his speech by thanking attendees and said that the police have close ties with members of the entertainment sector.

“We are good old friends. Everything is in our hearts, no words are needed. You guys just need to give us a thumbs up, we would not hesitate to go through fire and water,” he said.

 Chief Superintendent John Tse at the banquet Chief Superintendent John Tse

Chief Superintendent John Tse was spotted at the banquet as well. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

Aside from Tang, other police figures were spotted at the banquet, including Chief Superintendent John Tse and Senior Superintendent Kelvin Kong, who often appeared at police press conferences during the protests.

Frankly Chu Kong Wing-cheung

Convicted officer Frankly Chu and current police spokesperson Kong Wing-cheung.

Retired superintendent Frankly Chu, who was found guilty of assaulting a pedestrian with a baton during the Umbrella Movement protests in 2014, was also in attendance.

The clips showed that the banquet was hosted by Sun Hei Celebrity Football Team, a football team under the Hong Kong Movie Star Sports Association, sponsored by Sun Hei Sports Club.

The clips and some photos were reshared on multiple pages on Facebook as well as on YouTube. Some pro-democracy netizens mockingly praised Chu as their teammate, as the clips were rumoured to have been shot on his phone: “Thank you Chu sau zuk! Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times,” one commenter wrote.

Others raised concerns over the health risks of attending a banquet amid the coronavirus outbreak: “All of them did not wear a mask, I really wish them good luck,” another commenter wrote.

A police spokesperson told media that the dinner was held on Sunday night following matches between the celebrity football team and a police team. The cost was shared by the two parties and did not involve using public funds.

‘Triad’ dinner

Earlier this month, the force was accused of meeting with local triad group 14K at a Chinese restaurant in Whampoa on February 7. The allegation came after local media outlet Next Magazine leaked footage showing Kong and Chief Superintendent Kwok Ka-chuen attending a banquet in the same restaurant as alleged gang members.

The police denied and condemned the allegations as a “fabrication” intended to defame the force. A police spokesperson said the banquet was a private dinner among off-duty officers, adding that police and triads are always in opposition.

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Coronavirus: Hong Kong sends charter flights to bring stranded cruise ship passengers home https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/02/18/coronavirus-hong-kong-sends-charter-flights-bring-stranded-cruise-ship-passengers-home/ Tue, 18 Feb 2020 08:10:56 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=244521 The government will send two charter flights to pick up all Hong Kong passengers aboard a cruise ship which has been stranded in Japan for nearly two weeks. 454 people abroad the Diamond Princess have contracted the new coronavirus. Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said two planes – each with a […]

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The government will send two charter flights to pick up all Hong Kong passengers aboard a cruise ship which has been stranded in Japan for nearly two weeks. 454 people abroad the Diamond Princess have contracted the new coronavirus.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said two planes – each with a capacity of 438 – would arrive at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Wednesday to bring 352 people back to the city. They will then be placed under a two-week quarantine at Chun Yeung Estate – a currently vacant, newly-built housing estate in Fo Tan.

The group includes Hong Kong permanent residents, as well as local and foreign passport holders.

diamond princess ambulance

An ambulance carried infected patients in Yokohama last week. Photo: Supplied.

Director of Immigration Erick Tsang and Under Secretary of Security Sonny Au led an advance team of 20 members who boarded the cruise ship for preparation work on Monday. 30 more personnel will follow on Tuesday. Eight medics from the Hospital Authority and the Department of Health are also involved in the operation.

The Diamond Princess, carrying over 3,700 passengers, docked in Yokohama on February 5 after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus.

Lam said immigration officers have had difficulty in reaching ten Hong Kong passengers as there were no contact details. Officers have sought help from crew members to locate them.

Some passengers initially refused to board the free-of-charge chartered flight. But Lam said that there would be difficulty in securing commercial flight bookings if Hongkongers arranged transit themselves. Plus, the passengers are on an Immigration Department watchlist, so mandatory quarantine orders will apply even they arrive on another flight, Lam said.

Embed from Getty Images

The flights were scheduled to depart Tokyo on Wednesday and arrive in Hong Kong the next day, though Lam said it was uncertain as to whether all Hong Kong passengers will make the flight.

“We still await the Japanese authorities, who will be finishing all tests by Wednesday, and see if they will allow passengers to disembark… Transport from [Yokohama] port to the International Airport is a big challenge as well.”

Mrs Li, a passenger on the cruise ship, told HKFP that she was prepared to go through another 14 days in a quarantine centre: “Elderly have priority to disembark but we are not sure when.”

Li and her husband tested negative for the coronavirus, though 21 other Hong Kong passengers are receiving treatment after being infected.

Virus war chest

Following her announcement of a HK$25 billion alleviation fund to tackle the virus, Lam said on Tuesday that there would be an increase to HK$28 billion in the finalised proposal. The war chest would be used to alleviate the economic hardships resulting from the crisis.

Street cleaners in Hong Kong face mask

Street cleaners in Hong Kong. Photo: GovHK.

“We promise to outline a timetable for each item in the fund to ensure efficient and timely execution. Those in need will receive their money as quickly as possible,” Lam said.

Groups who are not destined to benefit from the fund should wait to hear details of next Wednesday’s budget, Lam added.

When asked by a reporter whether the government would send charter flights to pick up over 2,200 Hong Kong residents stranded in Hubei province, the origin of the novel coronavirus, Lam said the plan was under discussion.

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Liu Zhiming, hospital director at China coronavirus epicentre, succumbs to the disease https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/02/18/liu-zhiming-hospital-director-china-coronavirus-epicentre-succumbs-disease/ Tue, 18 Feb 2020 08:05:57 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=244574 A hospital director at the epicentre of China’s virus epidemic died Tuesday, state media said, the latest medical worker to fall victim to the new coronavirus spreading across the country. The COVID-19 virus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan late last year, has infected more than 72,000 people and killed nearly 1,900. Liu Zhiming, […]

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A hospital director at the epicentre of China’s virus epidemic died Tuesday, state media said, the latest medical worker to fall victim to the new coronavirus spreading across the country.

The COVID-19 virus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan late last year, has infected more than 72,000 people and killed nearly 1,900.

Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital

Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital. Photo: Weibo.

Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, died Tuesday morning after “all-out rescue efforts failed,” state broadcaster CCTV reported.

China said last week that six medical workers had died from the virus, while 1,716 have been infected.

Liu’s death was initially reported by Chinese media and bloggers shortly after midnight on Tuesday — but the stories were later deleted and replaced with reports that doctors were still trying to save him.

After initial reports of his death were denied, the hospital told AFP on Tuesday morning that doctors were giving him life-saving treatment.

Liu’s death has echoes of that of Wuhan ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, who had been punished by authorities for sounding the alarm about the virus in late December.

Li’s death prompted a national outpouring of grief as well as anger against the authorities, who were accused of mishandling the crisis.

Li Wenliang

Li Wenliang. Photo: Li Wenliang.

People took to social media to mourn Liu on Tuesday, with many users on the Twitter-like Weibo platform drawing critical comparisons between Liu’s death and Li’s.

In both cases their deaths were initially reported in state media posts — later deleted — and their deaths denied, before being finally confirmed again.

“Has everyone forgotten what happened to Li Wenliang? They forcefully attempted resuscitation after he died,” one Weibo commenter wrote.

Another commenter said, Liu “already died last night, (but) some people are addicted to torturing corpses”.

A hashtag about Liu’s death had 29 million views by Tuesday afternoon.

Doctors in Wuhan face shortages of masks and protective bodysuits, with some even wearing makeshift hazmat suits and continuing to work despite showing respiratory symptoms, health workers have told AFP.

Hubei province and its capital Wuhan have been the hardest hit by the virus, accounting for nearly 1,800 of the deaths from the virus so far.

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Death toll from coronavirus surpasses 1,800 in China – govt https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/02/18/death-toll-coronavirus-surpasses-1800-china-govt/ Tue, 18 Feb 2020 04:01:29 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=244526 The toll from China’s coronavirus epidemic jumped to 1,868 on Tuesday after 98 more people died, according to the National Health Commission. Nearly 72,500 people nationwide have been infected by the new COVID-19 strain of the virus, which first emerged in December before spiralling into a nationwide epidemic. There were 1,886 new cases reported Tuesday […]

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The toll from China’s coronavirus epidemic jumped to 1,868 on Tuesday after 98 more people died, according to the National Health Commission.

Nearly 72,500 people nationwide have been infected by the new COVID-19 strain of the virus, which first emerged in December before spiralling into a nationwide epidemic.

hubei virus

This photo taken on February 17, 2020 shows a member of the medical staff (L) checking the body temperature of a patient who has displayed mild symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at an exhibition centre converted into a hospital in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province. Photo: Stringer/AFP.

There were 1,886 new cases reported Tuesday — a decline on Monday’s figure, and the lowest single-day figure of new cases so far this month.

Most of the deaths were in Hubei province, the hard-hit epicentre of the outbreak, with five reported elsewhere in the country.

Hubei has been locked down to try to contain the virus, with tens of millions of people placed under effective quarantine in the province.

The number of new cases reported outside Hubei province was just 79, down from 890 on February 4.

It marks the lowest number of new cases outside the virus-struck province since January 23.

China’s national health authority has said the declining numbers are a sign that the outbreak is under control.

However, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the trend “must be interpreted very cautiously”.

WHO World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. File photo: UN.

“Trends can change as new populations are affected. It is too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table,” he told reporters on Monday.

Chinese health officials have urged patients who recovered from the coronavirus to donate blood so that plasma can be extracted to treat others who are critically ill.

Plasma from patients who have recovered from a spell of pneumonia triggered by COVID-19 contains antibodies that can help reduce the virus load in critically ill patients, an official from the National Health Commission told a press briefing Monday.

More than 12,000 people have recovered and been discharged, according to health commission figures.

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Hundreds in Hong Kong protest against plans to open coronavirus clinics in residential areas https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/02/17/hundreds-hong-kong-protest-plans-open-coronavirus-clinics-residential-areas/ Mon, 17 Feb 2020 15:50:08 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=244434 Protests unfolded around Hong Kong over the weekend against government plans to set up designated coronavirus clinics near residential areas. The demonstrations came as the Hospital Authority announced that 18 out-patient clinics in 17 districts would be transformed into clinics to treat people with suspected Covid-19 infections. There have been over 71,000 cases globally and […]

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Protests unfolded around Hong Kong over the weekend against government plans to set up designated coronavirus clinics near residential areas.

The demonstrations came as the Hospital Authority announced that 18 out-patient clinics in 17 districts would be transformed into clinics to treat people with suspected Covid-19 infections. There have been over 71,000 cases globally and over 1,700 deaths including one locally.

tin shui wai coronavirus protest

Photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press.

The plan was rolled out without prior public consultation, spurring a backlash in communities such as those around the South Kwai Chung Jockey Club General Out-Patient Clinic and Kennedy Town’s Jockey Club General Out-Patient Clinic.

Clinics vandalised

Police said that a Saturday protest in Tin Shui Wai was halted after Tin Sau Light Rail Stop was set on fire by demonstrators. The Force said that Tin Sau Road was later occupied by protesters who blocked the road with rubbish bins, wood, foam boxes and debris.

District Councillors Ng Kin-wai and Hau Man-kin were among those pepper-sprayed, as officers arrested 33 people.

Ng Kin-wai pepper spray tin shui wai

Ng Kin-wai. Photo: inmediahk.net.

The Hospital Authority condemned vandalism to two clinics during Saturday’s protests – the Tai Po Jockey Club General Out-patient Clinic and Tsuen Wan’s Mrs Wu York Yu General Out-patient Clinic: “The malicious behaviours… [affected] the operations of clinics and [compromised] patient safety,” a press release read.

Lawmaker Claudia Mo, who attended a demonstration in Cheung Sha Wan, told HKFP that the government could “use other more desirable sites, including PLA barracks.”

claudia mo coronavirus

Claudia Mo at the protest. Photo: inmediahk.net.

When asked if lawmakers or district councillors were told about the clinic plans, she said: “None… [Chief Executive] Carrie Lam behaves like a tinpot dictator and obviously thinks she can do just anything she wants… the residents should at least be consulted over the designated clinic plan.”

“Carrie Lam starts the fire on one hand, and pretends to try to have it put out on the other. Hongkongers caught in the middle are getting burnt.” Mo added.

tin shui wai coronavirus clinic protest

 Tin Shui Wai light rail tracks. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Fo Tan clinic

Meanwhile, District Councillor Mak Tsz-kin told HKFP that he was stopped and searched by a police officer at a Fo Tan protest before the assembly began: “He asked me questions with a very unfriendly attitude,” he said. He also questioned if water cannon trucks deployed at Shan Mei Street were necessary.

Mak said that chances of community outbreak in the neighbourhood were a concern: “We have no confidence in this government. Incidents of home-quarantined patients escaping are not unheard of. How do they ensure that there will be enough manpower to monitor the situation?”

fo tan quarantine coronaviruss

“Are you oblivious of the coronavirus under our nose?” Photo: Chau Ho Man/United Social Press.

On Saturday, the government said they have stringent requirements when considering a site and that “security and healthcare staff will be on duty round the clock in the quarantine centres.” The statement added that only those with written permission from health personnel could enter or leave the centres.

MacLehose Holiday Village, Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village, Po Leung Kuk Jockey Club Pak Tam Chung Holiday Camp, as well as Jao Tsung-I Academy have been converted into quarantine centres to accommodate those who have been in close contact with infected people or those who have been to Hubei Province over the past 14 days. The former three are close to their maximum capacity, according to the government.

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Coronavirus: Hong Kong Police defend use of protective gear as report claims Force received more than Health Dept. https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/02/17/coronavirus-hong-kong-police-defend-use-protective-gear-report-claims-force-received-health-dept/ Mon, 17 Feb 2020 08:24:17 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=244394 The Hong Kong Police Force have defended their requests for protective equipment during the coronavirus outbreak, amid criticism that they had been granted more gear than seven other frontline government departments, including – in some cases – the health department. On Saturday, pro-democracy lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki claimed that officers had not participated in tackling the […]

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The Hong Kong Police Force have defended their requests for protective equipment during the coronavirus outbreak, amid criticism that they had been granted more gear than seven other frontline government departments, including – in some cases – the health department.

On Saturday, pro-democracy lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki claimed that officers had not participated in tackling the SARS-like outbreak, yet had been given large quantities of protective gear: “The coverall suits that the police need are 20 times more [in quantity] than the Department of Health,” Kwok said.

Hong Kong Police reacted to protective supplies allegation Facebook

Superintendent Louis Lau responded to the allegations in a video on Facebook. Photo: Hong Kong Police Force Facebook screenshot.

On Sunday, Apple Daily published a document appearing to show that the force received 13,780 N95 respirators, whilst the Department of Health received only 256 – despite recent complaints of a shortage. The Force also received 3,628 litres of bleach from the Government Logistics Department, whilst the Food and Environment Hygiene Department and the Fire Services Department received none.

Along with surgical masks, the force received more protective gear than seven other departments which had frequent contact with potentially infected persons, according to the document. Other departments included the Customs and Excise Department, the Immigration Department, Social Welfare Department, Fire Services Department and RTHK.

The document also estimated what supplies would be needed in the coming two months. For protective coverall suits, it predicted that the police will use 44,000, while the Department of Health would need 2,482 pieces.

masks police

Photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press.

Over 71,000 people have been infected worldwide by the new strain of virus known as Covid-19. It has spread to more than two dozen countries, killing over 1,770 people, including one in Hong Kong.

‘Fake news’

In a video posted on their Facebook page on Sunday, the Force slammed the allegations as “fake news” and “misinformation.” Superintendent Louis Lau said a large quantity of supplies were needed for the force’s 40,000 officers, whose daily work involves a lot of contact with the general public.

“We are definitely the government department that has the most contact with the general public. The hygiene risks in our work are not low at all,” he said.

According to Lau, most police officers are given one face mask per day, and they only have supplies for one more week. He added the coveralls that officers had been seen wearing came from their reserves, and the Force have not taken any from the Government Logistics Department during the outbreak.

virus masks

File photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press.

“In face of the outbreak, if the police cannot protect ourselves, how can we protect the citizens?” Lau asked.

Lau said the Force had been actively involved in curbing the outbreak, including stationing officers at border control points and quarantine centres, assisting in the evacuation of households in Hong Mei House in Tsing Yi where there was a suspected community outbreak, as well as investigating face mask scams.

At a press conference on Sunday, Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said the centre did not know how many face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) the Department of Health had. She also refused to comment on the requests on protective gear by other departments.

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