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HK orders 21-day hotel quarantine for all new arrivals, bans travelers from S Africa

25 December 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap 


Christmas Day came with bad news for all travelers arriving in Hong Kong from abroad. Everyone must now spend 21 days in hotel quarantine, instead of just 14.

The move was gazette by the government late on Dec 24, and took effect from the first hours of today, Christmas Day.

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The government also banned people who had stayed in South Africa for more than two hours on the day of boarding, or 21 days before, from entering Hong Kong.

This was after a new, more infectious mutation of the coronavirus similar to the one found in Britain earlier, was discovered in South Africa.

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All flights from Britain were earlier barred from entering Hong Kong, while passengers who were able to enter the city between Dec 2 and 23 became the first to be told to spend 21 days in hotel quarantine.

In addition, all passengers who arrived in Hong Kong between Dec 2 and 24, must undergo a third Covid-19 test on the 19th or 20th day of their arrival, and should remain in isolation until the test result is known.

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The government said in a press release that while the World Health Organization has said that the incubation period of the coronavirus is 14 days, there is currently no evidence to show how long patients infected by the new variant will remain infectious.

But since experts believe that there is a small number of patients whose incubation period is longer than 14 days, and since more and more mutations of the virus are being discovered all over the world, the government felt it necessary to strengthen border control further.

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This is meant “to ensure that no case would slip through the net even under very exceptional cases where the incubation period of the virus is longer than 14 days,” said the statement.

Chuang and Lau reporting on the latest Covid-19 situation

Earlier, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said that the government was seeking more information from the WHO about the South African variant which is believed to be more transmissible, especially among younger people.

But she noted that Hong Kong has not had any imported cases from South Africa lately.

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She made the statement during the daily press briefing on the Covid-19 situation, during which she reported 71 new infections. Sixty-one of these were locally acquired, with 30 from an unknown source.

The 10 imported cases included three young returnees from Britain who all tested positive while in quarantine. The patients, who were all asymptomatic, are aged 14 (M), 16 (F) and 18 (M).

The others are two returnees from the United States, aged 25 (F) and 80 (M), a 38-year-old woman from Indonesia, a 19-year-old female from Turkey, a 30-year-old male from Pakistan, and a 36-year-old man from Serbia.

Three more confirmed patients passed away over the past 24 hours; a 77-year-old man, 92-year-old man, and a 86-year-old woman. They brought the death toll in public hospitals to 131.

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Of the 985 patients still being treated in 23 public hospitals and the community facility at AsiaWorld-Expo, 61 are in critical condition, 61 are seriously ill, and 863 are stable.

Chuang advised people to remain vigilant and not take part in social activities over the Christmas holidays, as infections had already been detected from family gatherings during the winter solstice earlier this week.

“We found many cases because of gatherings on the 20th and 21st,” she said.

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Because of the celebrations we found quite a number of cases in family clusters. So try to avoid large gatherings as much as possible to prevent cases in the coming days,” she said.

Dr Lau Ka-hin from the Hospital Authority said compassionate visits by family members to elderly patients may have to be curbed after a convalescent 95-year-old man who had previously been hospitalized, tested preliminary positive for the virus in Buddhist Hospital.

The patient was admitted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Dec 9 and tested negative. He was  transferred to Buddhist Hospital on Dec 13 where he developed a fever, and tested positive in a test.

Three patients receiving palliative care at United Christian Hospital also tested preliminary positive. Again, the source of infection is believed to have come from outside, likely by family members who were allowed to visit and check on the patient’s condition.

Lau said hospitals will now be very strict with compassionate visits. Only family members will be allowed to visit a patient, and this should be for no more than 30 minutes. Relatives should also refrain from feeding the patient. 

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