Coronavirus outbreak: Hong Kong hospital strike kicks off as medical staff call for border closure with mainland China

South China Morning Post

A top microbiologist agreed with the demand, saying it was the only effective way to stop the spread of the virus

South China Morning Post |

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Members of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance sign up people to the strike near Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Yau Ma Tei.

A top microbiologist agreed with medical workers' demand that the government close the border with mainland China as more than 2,400 Hong Kong public hospital workers staged a strike on Monday. 

“Closing the border entirely is the only effective way to prevent the spread of the virus,” Dr Ho Pak-leung, of the University of Hong Kong, told a radio programme.

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Ho said closing the border would not be discriminatory or go against the WHO’s 2005 International Health Regulations, a legal instrument which includes specific measures for ports, airports and ground crossings to limit the spread of diseases.

He added that anyone entering the city from the mainland carried the same risk of infection, whether they are a Chinese citizen, a Hong Kong resident or a foreign national.

“Unless that person has a very good reason and must absolutely return to Hong Kong, then they need to be quarantined,” he said. Ho said the government could consider quarantining such people in hotels far from residential areas. If there was not enough space, he added, they would have to be quarantined at home, with someone on guard.

Long queues formed at various hospitals as doctors, nurses and medical assistants – many wearing white ribbons – registered for the industrial action, aimed primarily at forcing the border shutdown.

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In a letter to public hospital workers, former Hospital Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk urged them to set aside their grievances and go to work.

“Our primary duty is to care for patients. Everyone can hold a different political view and different thoughts, as well as different views on the government’s way of combating the pandemic,” said Wu, a standing committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the nation’s top advisory body.