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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.”
Customs today seized a total of 174 bottles of disinfectant alcohol with a false description of its composition. The department had earlier received information alleging that a pharmacy in Tuen Mun was selling this disinfectant alcohol. Customs officers then bought a disinfectant alcohol that was labelled as "75% ethanol" at the pharmacy. The disinfectant alcohol was being sold in white plastic bottles labelled as 1 litre and sold at a price of $98 per bottle. Samples were sent to the Government Laboratory and the test results revealed that it consisted of less than 0.1% of ethanol while its methanol content reached 52%. The results also showed the actual volume of the bottle to be only 737 milliliters. The disinfectant alcohol's composition was different from the product's description, in contravention of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. Customs officers today searched a pharmacy group's office in Tuen Mun and its 20 branches located at various districts, where the 174 bottles of disinfectant alcohol were seized. A director and six sales staff of the pharmacy, aged 24 to 43, were arrested. The department noted methanol is a type of organic solvent which is harmful to the human body and might cause blindness or even death if accidentally eaten or misused. It appealed to members of the public to stop using that type of disinfectant alcohol and for traders to remove the products from shop shelves as well. Customs officers also checked 236 retail spots in various districts and no such products were found for sale.
A total of 106 Hong Kong residents from the Diamond Princess cruise ship arrived safely in Hong Kong from Tokyo this morning on a chartered flight arranged by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. The first batch of evacuees includes six people who were permitted to leave Japan after they completed quarantine at a facility in Saitama Prefecture. Department of Health’s port health officers briefed them about quarantine arrangements and checked their body temperature before they deplaned. All passengers were taken to the quarantine centre in Chun Yeung Estate by pre-arranged coaches to undergo 14-day quarantine observation. The Hong Kong SAR Government explained that people who have been arranged to stay at quarantine centres, including passengers returning from Japan, have no coronavirus symptoms and are neither confirmed nor suspected infected patients. The quarantine centre will operate on the mode of independent accommodation with security and healthcare staff on duty around the clock. Transport services to and from the centre will be provided to people under quarantine who cannot leave and move around in the community without a health officer's written permission. A total of 364 Hong Kong residents were originally on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, including 260 HKSAR passport holders and around 100 foreign passport holders. As of February 19, a total of 55 Hong Kong residents from the ship were confirmed as being infected with the novel coronavirus and must stay in Japan for medical treatment. Another 33, who are close contacts of the confirmed cases, have been put under quarantine for an extended period and are unable to return to Hong Kong for the time being. Immigration officers will stay in Japan to provide assistance to these Hong Kong residents. A task force of the SAR Government will continue to maintain close liaison with Japanese authorities and the cruise operator, and will confirm the list of remaining Hong Kong residents and their test results. They aim to evacuate all Hong Kong residents permitted to leave the cruise ship today. A third chartered flight will be arranged for those remaining tomorrow. Any individual who chooses not to take the chartered flight will be referred to the Port Health Division for assessment immediately upon returning to Hong Kong and will still be subject to a maximum of 14 days' quarantine. The SAR Government expressed heartfelt gratitude to the Chinese Embassy in Japan and the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China in the HKSAR for their assistance and liaison work with the Japanese government. It also thanked the Japanese authority's active facilitation that enabled this mission to take place smoothly.
Secretary for Security John Lee today said the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is mulling over the need to prepare for a third chartered flight to evacuate Hong Kong residents aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. Speaking to the media at the Legislative Council this morning, Mr Lee said the Immigration Department has contacted all 352 Hong Kong residents on the cruise ship and more than 200 have indicated that they will take the chartered flights arranged by the Hong Kong SAR Government to return home. He noted that Japanese authorities will start allowing passengers to disembark today, once they have tested negative for the novel coronavirus. He explained that about 20 Hong Kong passengers should have tested negative for the virus so far. “We are pressing for more results today. So hopefully, the number of Hong Kong people who are confirmed to be negative will increase and we are pressing the Japanese authorities to allow them all to come down.” Mr Lee asserted that the SAR Government has urged Japanese authorities to first deal with the Hong Kong passengers. “We have been pressing the Japanese authorities to give priority to the treatment of Hong Kong residents. “Our aim is to allow all Hong Kong residents to be allowed to disembark today, so that they will all be sent back to Hong Kong as soon as possible.” The security chief said the SAR Government has requested even more information but Japanese authorities have failed to respond. “For example, how many Hong Kong residents have tested positive and how many negative? How many are regarded as close contacts who may have to continue to stay in Japan? How many, if they are required to be quarantined, will be quarantined on the ship or on land? And we have asked the Japanese authorities to allow Hong Kong residents, even if they stay to be quarantined, then that should be done on land.” The SAR Government will ask the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong to provide assistance, Mr Lee added. “I will be in touch with the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong to reflect the concerns of the stranded Hong Kong residents on the cruise and to explain that because we have a large number, so it is in everybody's interest that priority is given to Hong Kong residents, so that they can come back as early as possible.”
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng today visited Yuen Long and distributed surgical masks and health information leaflets to families in need. Ms Cheng urged people to join hands with the Government to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Joined by social workers from Pok Oi Hospital, she went to Long Shin Estate and visited elderly families to learn about their living conditions. She distributed face masks, food, leaflets and other items to them. Noting the difficulties faced by the public in purchasing masks, Ms Cheng said masks that were donated to the Government have been passed to various non-governmental organisations for delivery to the underprivileged. She also appealed to the public to maintain good personal hygiene to prevent the spread of the disease effectively.
Police today said the purpose of their clarification work is to facilitate the public to understand its work more accurately. The force made the statement in response to a local Chinese newspaper report, which alleged that the act of Police sending them clarification letters was intimidating. Police emphasised that the purpose of sending the letters is to underline facts. While respecting freedom of speech and freedom of the press, Police have the responsibility to explain the facts to the public to avoid misunderstandings, the statement said, adding that the force has sent letters to other local and overseas media organisations to clarify untrue claims. Police pointed out that there has been an overwhelming volume of unfounded information circulating in society over the last few months and that it has been proactive in enhancing its work transparency and repeatedly clarifying unfounded reports and information. Apart from sending letters to media organisations, Police disseminate information and dismiss unfounded claims through press conferences and press releases as well as on social media platforms. It will continue to enhance public understanding of police work and earn their support and trust through various channels.
A second batch of 36 Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government officers has flown to Japan to help Hong Kong residents quarantined for the novel coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. They were deployed to join the advance team of 30 officers led by Under Secretary for Security Sonny Au and Director of Immigration Erick Tsang who arrived in Tokyo on February 17 to prepare for today's operation to bring the Hong Kong residents home on free chartered flights. The Hong Kong SAR Government said it attaches great importance to this operation which is personally led by Mr Tsang with the support of 50 Immigration Department officers. A total of eight medical and nursing professionals from the Department of Health (DH) and the Hospital Authority (HA) have joined the operation to ensure that it goes smoothly and that the Hong Kong residents' health needs are being well taken care of during the journey. The advance team met representatives of the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office (ETO) in Tokyo and the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Japan to discuss collaboration for the operation. The Hong Kong SAR Government also met cruise operator and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan representatives to learn more about the arrangements and schedule for disembarking the passengers. It also relayed concrete demands to the Japanese authorities, including seeking early confirmation on whether the Hong Kong residents who tested negative for the virus can be released as a whole group on February 19, and the list of Hong Kong residents who are the confirmed cases' close contacts and thereby subject to an extended quarantine period, as well as their quarantine dates and arrangements. In the event that the concerned Hong Kong residents cannot leave as a whole group on February 19, the Japanese authorities have been requested to prioritise those who have opted to take the chartered flights back to Hong Kong for disembarkation on February 19. Mr Tsang said: "Colleagues of the Immigration Department together with the Tokyo ETO, DH and HA have prepared, and the two chartered flights arranged by the HKSAR Government would be ready today. However, up till now, there are still many uncertainties on the arrangements of the Japanese side, including whether the Japanese authorities can have the results of the virus tests for all passengers ready by today as planned, and whether the Hong Kong residents on board are permitted to disembark as a whole group on February 19. "We have made our demands to the Japanese authorities and are pending their response. In the meantime, we are preparing for different possible scenarios. We will make our best effort to bring the affected Hong Kong residents back to Hong Kong as early as possible and provide support to those who cannot leave for the time being." As of February 18, a total of 542 passengers onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan have been confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus. There are 352 Hong Kong residents onboard, including 260 Hong Kong SAR passport holders and 92 holding a foreign passport, among them 50 are confirmed novel coronavirus infection cases. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, transport will be arranged to transfer the passengers from Hong Kong International Airport to the quarantine centre. For any individual who does not take a chartered flight to Hong Kong, the person will be referred to the Port Health Division for assessment as soon as they return to the city and may be subject to a maximum of 14 days' quarantine in a designated quarantine centre depending on the situation.
Customs today urged parents to stop letting babies use an unsafe teether which could lead to suffocation. It warned the teether is too small and could easily become stuck in a baby's throat, and that it is contrary to the general safety requirements stipulated in the Toys & Children's Products Safety Ordinance. The department also found another two teether models failed to comply with the ordinance's requirements to bear identification markings and applicable bilingual warnings or cautions. Customs officers had earlier conducted a citywide spot check in various districts and seized 1,095 teethers of three models in contravention of the ordinance from four chain stores and a wholesaler. Among them, 937 teethers could pose a suffocation risk and 158 failed to bear identification markings and applicable bilingual warnings or cautions. An investigation is ongoing. Customs reminds members of the public, when purchasing teethers, to pay attention to age recommendations shown on labels, study and follow the instructions and check if the teethers have a fragile structure. It is an offence to supply, manufacture or import unsafe toys or children's products. The maximum penalty is a fine of $100,000 and one-year imprisonment on first conviction, and a fine of $500,000 and two-years' imprisonment on subsequent conviction. Call 2545 6182 or email to report suspected unsafe toys or children's products.
After the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the Government has announced a series of prevention and control measures to reduce the risk of spread of the disease in the community. Compulsory quarantine, on the basis of a public health emergency (under Cap. 599 Prevention & Control of Disease Ordinance), is one of the measures in place. From February 8 onwards, all people entering Hong Kong from the Mainland, including Hong Kong residents, Mainland residents as well as other visitors, are required to be subject to mandatory quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival. Even if they are entering from other places, if they have visited the Mainland over the past 14 days, mandatory quarantine is still applicable upon their arrival. Anyone who violates the regulation may face a maximum penalty of imprisonment for six months and a fine of $25,000 upon conviction. We hope that the new measures could further reduce the flow of people between Hong Kong and the Mainland, reducing the risks for a spread of the disease in Hong Kong. The Department of Health would gather evidence and conduct investigations into any contravention of quarantine orders before referring the cases to the Department of Justice for making prosecutorial decisions. Our prosecutors would make such decisions based on available evidence, applicable laws and the Prosecution Code. A prosecution would be commenced if there is sufficient admissible evidence for a reasonable prospect of conviction. Minimising social contact in the community is another key measure to curb the spread of the virus. Hence, we only arranged for a certain number of colleagues, including government counsel, paralegals and supporting staff, to return to the office to handle urgent matters and provide basic public services. The reception counters of the Prosecutions Division and the Civil Division have remained open over the past few weeks to allow members of the public and the legal profession to serve court documents. The shroff office is also partly open for payment service. Details of the service hours are available from our press release. There are colleagues from different divisions returning to the office to handle emergency works including attending urgent court hearings, processing court documents and attending urgent meetings. We have arranged for sufficient manpower to provide cleansing services at the office to safeguard the health of colleagues. For others, who are given laptops and electronic communication devices, are advised to work at home. I am heartened to learn that the Department of Justice is largely functioning well. The Judiciary announced that court hearings would be generally adjourned in view of public health considerations but the courts would continue to handle urgent and essential hearings. Colleagues from the Department of Justice have been deployed to attend such hearings to deal with cases including bail applications and sentencing. I am grateful to all my colleagues for remaining steadfast at their posts at this difficult time. I also urge those who are required to stay at home or other dwelling places for a 14-day quarantine to abide by the law and strictly comply with the quarantine orders. Violation of orders causes a spread of the disease and leads to criminal prosecution. Last but not the least, I appeal to all members of the public to join hands with the Government to do their best to prevent and curb the spread of COVID-19 by maintaining good personal hygiene, thereby ending the epidemic as soon as possible. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on February 17.
Customs announced that it has tested the second batch of 20 surgical mask samples and found that they comply with the bacterial count standard. The first batch of 20 samples passed the safety test early this month. Currently, all of the 40 test-purchased surgical masks in two batches have passed the tests and no violations of the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance have been found. The department launched a large-scale citywide special operation on January 27 to conduct spot checks, test purchases and inspections in various districts on surgical masks available on the market. As of February 16, it conducted more than 13,000 inspections at retail spots selling surgical masks and more than 80 samples have been test-purchased. Customs will continue to inspect surgical mask retail locations and conduct test-buy operations to ensure that masks being sold comply with the Trade Descriptions Ordinance and the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance. People can report suspected violations by calling the department at 2545 6182 or by email.