Coronavirus: Hong Kong government reduces transport services to mainland, though doctors express doubts


Meanwhile, experts at HKU begin work on a vaccine, businesses have employees work from home, and public facilities close

Wong Tsui-kai |

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor speaks to the media, alongside professors, during a press conference at Chief Executive's Office, Tamar.

Hong Kong is introducing tough measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus. 

Infectious diseases expert Professor Yuen Kwok-yung of the University of Hong Kong and his team, as well as scientists in the US and China, are working on a vaccine for the deadly virus. 

A timeline of the coronavirus 

“We have already produced the vaccine, but it will take a long time to test it on animals,” Yuen said, without saying when it would be ready for use on patients. He said it would take months to test the vaccine on animals and at least another year to conduct clinical trials on humans before it was fit for use.

The government has announced a series of measures aimed at reducing cross-border traffic flow, including restrictions on tourist visits, flights, ferries and buses. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said through-train services between Hung Hom and Guangzhou would be suspended, along with high-speed train services to the mainland. These measures will come into effect at midnight Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, classes at all schools and universities have been suspended, while the government has asked most of its employees to start working from home. Many private companies have offered the same option to their staff.

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Public facilities and large-scale activities have also been closed or suspended. The Jockey Club, public sports centres, museums and libraries have been partially or fully closed, while the government had earlier scrapped the Lunar New Year carnival. 

However, doctors have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the government’s cross-border controls, demanding that the border be sealed off. 

The Hospital Authority Employees’ Alliance branded the measures “slightly more constructive” but they may fail to stop a strike planned by medical sector workers. The union plans to hold a meeting on February 1 to discuss the matter.