HK to halt all rail, ferry links with mainland

Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Tuesday that all rail and ferry routes between the mainland and Hong Kong will be halted effective midnight on Thursday, but stopped short of a full border closure, as the government tries to slam the door shut on the widening outbreak of the Wuhan virus.

She also announced that the number of cross-border flights will be halved, while the border checkpoints at Sha Tau Kok and Man Kam To will be closed to all passenger traffic, although drivers carrying goods will be allowed to cross.

Meanwhile, Lam said mainland authorities have agreed to suspend its ‘individual visit scheme’ — where mainlanders are allowed to travel to the SAR without joining a package tour. This effectively means no mainland tourists will be allowed into Hong Kong for the time being, as all package tours had already been suspended as part of previously-announced disease-control measures.

And, after the government came under fire for its decision to treat anyone placed into isolation suspected of having contracted the virus for free, Lam said the Hospital Authority will start charging non-residents for the cost of their treatment.

Lam also said the authorities would be dropping another controversial initiative — to use unoccupied public estate developments camps for quarantine purposes. Angry Fanling residents had blocked roads by Fai Ming Estate on Sunday, a day after the government said it planned to use the estate to house close contacts of those infected with the new coronavirus, as well as healthcare staff in need of accommodation.

Lam, meanwhile, also railed against what she said was the ‘large volume’ of ‘fake news‘ that has been flooding social media and the internet in recent days, saying they make the authorities’ disease prevention efforts much more difficult. She said one one rumour in particular — that Hong Kong‘s health infrastructure was to be used as part of the national effort to contain the virus — was ‘ridiculous’.

More details to come.

Last updated: 2020-01-28 HKT 17:09

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