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The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today issued a Red Outbound Travel Alert (OTA) on three regions in Italy in view of the health risks arising from the COVID-19 outbreak there. The three regions, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto, recorded a persistent and rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. The regions cover Bologna, Milan, Venice and Verona. The Hong Kong SAR Government, having issued a Red OTA on Iran on January 10 due to safety concerns, also alerted the public about the outbreak of COVID-19 cases and associated public health risks in that country. Udder the red alert, those who plan to travel to the Italian regions concerned and Iran are urged to adjust travel plans and avoid non-essential travel. Those who are already there should heed announcements by local authorities, wear surgical masks at all times and avoid unnecessary visits to healthcare facilities and crowded places. People who must travel there should pay close attention to the latest COVID-19 situation and corresponding travel health advice issued by the Department of Health. Upon return to Hong Kong from these places, people should promptly consult a doctor if experiencing a fever or other relevant symptoms, inform the doctor of any recent travel history and exposure to animals, and wear surgical masks for 14 days. Hong Kong residents in Italy or Iran who need assistance may call the 24-hour hotline of the Immigration Department’s Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit at (852) 1868 or contact the Chinese Embassy in the two countries. The consular protection hotlines of the Chinese embassies in Italy and Iran are (39) 3939110852 and (98) 912-2176035 respectively. The SAR Government has also issued a Red OTA on Korea in light of the persistent and rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in that country.
The Immigration Department and the Department of Health have reinforced their staff to Japan to continue assisting the Hong Kong passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship who are still there. The Hong Kong passengers include patients confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 and are hospitalised, as well as the close contacts of the confirmed cases now under quarantine on land. Currently, there are 23 immigration officers in Japan and a medical team including infectious disease and respiratory medicine specialists providing suitable support to the patients and their families. All passengers onboard the cruise ship disembarked on February 23. At that time, 70 among the 691 confirmed coronavirus infection cases involved Hong Kong residents. Another 31 were regarded as close contacts and sent to various land quarantine facilities for 14 days. Earlier, two Hong Kong passengers who are close contacts were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 72.     Three government chartered flights were arranged to bring home 193 Hong Kong residents between February 19 and 23. Up till now, another 25 Hong Kong residents have returned by themselves on other flights. As at February 26, 218 Hong Kong passengers have been sent to the Chun Yeung Estate quarantine centre. Among them, seven have subsequently been confirmed to have contracted the virus and sent to hospitals for isolation and treatment.               The close-to-100 Hong Kong residents who are hospitalised or under quarantine in Japan have been sent to hospitals or quarantine facilities across 11 prefectures and cities, namely Aichi, Kanagawa, Tokyo, Chiba, Ibaraki, Gifu, Nara, Yamanashi, Nagano, Osaka and Saitama. Immigration officers are split and assigned to these places to help Hong Kong residents there. The Department of Health’s medical team will also visit the confirmed patients and their families as far as practicable, and will contact the attending doctors and where appropriate, arrange direct conversations with the patients or their family members to assess whether the patients have received appropriate medical treatment. As of February 26, eight confirmed patients among the Hong Kong passengers have recovered and been discharged from hospital after treatment. Four of them have returned to Hong Kong and the remaining four are still in Japan accompanying their family members or awaiting assistance from immigration officers for flight arrangements for their return. Discharged patients would have been tested twice for COVID-19 and both test results have to be negative before they are discharged from hospital, to ensure they are no longer infectious. For prudence sake, each discharged patient is given health advice and reminded to contact port health staff upon arrival at Hong Kong International Airport for a health assessment and arrangement of a 14-day medical surveillance. In addition, a Hong Kong resident who was classified as a close contact has completed the quarantine in Japan and was permitted to leave. Close contacts need to have their health assessed by port health staff upon their return to Hong Kong. If a close contact has not finished a 14-day quarantine counted from the day of disembarkation from the Diamond Princess, or February 23, he or she must  complete the remaining quarantine period in a quarantine centre upon returning home. The close contact of concern has returned to Hong Kong and is continuing the quarantine at Chun Yeung Estate. Other close contacts who are still in Japan have all now been admitted to land quarantine facilities for a 14-day stay, counted from the day of last contact with the confirmed cases. Over the past few days, the Hong Kong Government has continued to actively consider feasible plans for bringing them back earlier. However, as they are still under quarantine and might carry certain infection risks, the airlines approached by the Government have expressed reservations about providing a chartered flight service. Various companies approached by the Government are also unwilling to accept the service request for land passage services, as the concerned close contacts are scattered across 11 different places. These close contacts will finish the quarantine on different dates and be tested for COVID-19. The immigration officers in Japan will continue to follow their situation closely and provide the necessary assistance, including helping arrange for their early return to Hong Kong after they have completed quarantine in Japan.
The Government today said people verified to be Hong Kong residents living in Sha Tau Kok's Mainland side have been exempted from compulsory quarantine requirements when entering the Sha Tau Kok Frontier Closed Area through Chung Ying Street. The exemption is on the condition that they have not been to other places on the Mainland other than the Sha Tau Kok Mainland Closed Area in the past 14 days, and that they need to undergo medical surveillance for 14 days. Sha Tau Kok Hong Kong residents must first submit proof of identification and residence to the North District Office to verify their resident status in order to be exempted from the relevant quarantine requirements when entering Hong Kong through Chung Ying Street. The Government stressed that if they enter Hong Kong from the Mainland through other immigration control points or have stayed in other places on the Mainland during the 14 days prior, they must be subject to the 14-day compulsory quarantine. From yesterday, the Government stepped up access control at Chung Ying Street in the Sha Tau Kok Frontier Closed Area. Hong Kong residents living in the Sha Tau Kok Mainland Closed Area must undergo medical surveillance when they enter the Hong Kong Frontier Closed Area through Chung Ying Street. All people entering Hong Kong through the Mainland Closed Area of Chung Ying Street must have their temperature checked by Department of Health.
Secretary for Security John Lee today visited Yiu On Estate in Ma On Shan to give out anti-epidemic packs to elderly residents. He reminded them to maintain good personal hygiene and stay vigilant against the spread of disease. The anti-epidemic packs contained surgical masks, alcohol-based hand rub and other daily necessities. He chatted with the seniors to better understand the epidemic’s impact on their daily life, wishing them good health and conveying the Government’s warmest regards. To win the fight against the epidemic, Mr Lee appealed to the public to act in concert by joining hands with the Government to prevent and control the disease.
A funeral with full honours was held today for customs officer Wong Cheuk-bond. Chief Executive Carrie Lam together with senior government officials including Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, Financial Secretary Paul Chan and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng attended the funeral. After a ceremony at the Universal Funeral Parlour in Hung Hom, the cortege travelled to the Customs Marine Base on Stonecutters Island, then on to Gallant Garden in Wo Hop Shek for the burial service. The officer's casket was draped in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region flag. Mr Wong and two of his colleagues passed away while carrying out duties in waters off Sha Chau on January 21.
(To watch the video with sign language interpretation, click here.) The Government today issued the Red Outbound Travel Alert on Korea due to the health risks arising from the COVID-19 outbreak there. It noted that due to the persistent and rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Korea and the close contacts between Hong Kong and Korea, the Government decided to issue the red alert based on public health considerations. Secretary for Security John Lee told a press briefing this evening that issuing the red alert was for the benefit of Hong Kong people who had travelled to Korea and those planning to go there. “This is to let Hong Kong people think really carefully about whether the visit to Korea is avoidable. Try not to go unless it is really necessary. That will reduce, first of all, the number of Hong Kong people who may be returning to Hong Kong after visiting Korea. That will reduce the number of people who need to be examined carefully at the airport. "And this measure is for the benefit of people who are planning to visit Korea and also for Hong Kong people at large because they will be in some way interacting with the people who have visited Korea.” Mr Lee also pointed out that the Government’s 14-day mandatory quarantine on all people entering Hong Kong from the Mainland would extend to those coming in from Korea. “The Immigration Department will examine visitors who arrive in Hong Kong since the new quarantine order, i.e. to ascertain whether the visitors have ever been to the Mainland within the last 14 days. So that examination has taken place. And now, we will extend that examination to cover whether the visitor has been to Korea in the last 14 days.” He also reminded the public that providing false information to health officers is a criminal offence. “It is a very serious offence and I wish to reiterate that the measures that we are introducing are for the benefit of the visitors themselves and also for the benefit of Hong Kong people at large. So, understand the consequences and appreciate the need for introducing the measures.”
The third chartered flight arranged by the Government to bring back Hong Kong residents who were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship arrived in Hong Kong today. There were five Hong Kong residents on the flight. All of them were transferred to the quarantine centre at Chun Yeung Estate for the 14-day quarantine observation. Together with the 188 Hong Kong residents who returned via the last two chartered flights, the three government-chartered flights brought a total of 193 Hong Kong residents home. Director of Immigration Erick Tsang, who is in charge of the repatriation operation, Under Secretary for Security Sonny Au and most members of the task force, including officers of the Security Bureau, the Immigration Department, Department of Health and the Hospital Authority also took the flight home. As of yesterday, there were a total of 634 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among passengers on board the Diamond Princess cruise, of which 68 were Hong Kong residents. They are under treatment in Japan.  Japanese authorities on February 22 arranged all passengers who are close contacts of confirmed cases, including about 30 Hong Kong residents, to continue their quarantine at land-based quarantine facilities for 14 days counting from the day of the last contact with the confirmed cases. The Government is proactively following up on feasible options to bring those who have tested negative for COVID-19, are asymptomatic and fit for travelling back to Hong Kong. Several Immigration Department officers are staying in Japan to assist those who are receiving medical treatment. The department will send another 10 officers there to visit the patients and help their close contacts.
The second chartered flight arranged by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government to bring back Hong Kong residents onboard the Diamond Princess cruise arrived in Hong Kong today. The chartered flight arrived at the Hong Kong International Airport at about 1.40am. There were 82 Hong Kong residents and two Macau residents on the flight. Before the passengers got off the aircraft, Department of Health medical officers explained the quarantine arrangement to them and checked their body temperatures.  While the Hong Kong residents were transferred by coaches to the quarantine centre at Chun Yeung Estate for quarantine observation for 14 days, two Macau residents returned to Macau via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge by a coach arranged by the Macao Special Administrative Region Government. Up to February 21, there were a total of 634 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among passengers onboard the Diamond Princess cruise, of which 66 were Hong Kong residents. They are under treatment in Japan. Regarding the close contacts of confirmed cases, the department has developed a protocol on disease prevention and risk management measures for bringing them back to Hong Kong by a chartered flight. Those concerned must be tested negative for COVID-19 and be fit for travelling. Immigration Department officers will stay in Japan to provide assistance to Hong Kong residents who are staying or receiving medical treatment there.
The first batch of 663 people finished their 14-day compulsory quarantine today, the Department of Health announced. None of the people who completed the quarantine became confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the quarantine period. During the period, the Government has various measures in place to monitor whether those under quarantine are complying with the quarantine order. While officers from disciplinary forces have assisted in spot checks, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer has made use of a location-sharing function of communication software and electronic wristbands to ensure that quarantined people are staying at their dwelling places. The Centre for Health Protection has set up a hotline to provide health information and answer enquiries. The Home Affairs Department has also set up a hotline and made referrals to the Social Welfare Department for providing assistance when necessary. According to the Compulsory Quarantine of Certain Persons Arriving at Hong Kong Regulation, except for exempted people, those who have stayed in the Mainland for any period during the 14 days preceding arrival in Hong Kong, regardless of nationality and travel documents used, are subject to compulsory quarantine for 14 days. Contravening the compulsory quarantine requirement is a criminal offence. Offenders are subject to a maximum fine of $25,000 and imprisonment for six months.
Secretary for Security John Lee today announced the third chartered flight will bring back Hong Kong residents from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who are not close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Speaking to reporters in the afternoon, Mr Lee said the government-arranged flight will depart Japan at 1.45am on February 23. He said: “Our intention is to take back any Hong Kong people who are allowed to leave the ship and also leave Japan if they are not close contacts so that they can all be taken back to Hong Kong. “The information so far indicates that there will likely be around 100 people still in Japan. Onboard the ship there are 32 close contacts, and there are several tens of people who are not close contacts and will be allowed to disembark the ship. “We are appealing to all Hong Kong residents who are still in Japan to take our chartered flight.” Mr Lee added that he does not expect this chartered flight to take back as many people as the first and second flights. “Despite the possibility of this third chartered flight not taking back a large number of people, we will not give up any chance to take back the Hong Kong people who are not close contacts and who can leave Japan.”