As New York is to the West, Hong Kong is Asia’s financial hub, but it’s now under siege from the rapidly spreading coronavirus because the city administrator, Carrie Lam, refuses to close the borders.
As reported by the South China Morning Post, Lam’s refusal has led to a strike by more than 5,000 healthcare workers, leaving the city’s hospitals and healthcare centers struggling to find enough personnel to treat the rising number of sick.
And all of this comes after Hong Kong’s first coronavirus death.
The paper reported:
Hong Kong could be on the verge of the deadly coronavirus spreading widely in the community, health authorities warned on Tuesday, with three new locally transmitted cases confirmed just hours after a 39-year-old patient became the city’s first fatality.
The prognosis came as public hospitals were under strain, with the Hospital Authority reporting that 5,000 workers walked off their jobs on the second day of a strike intended to force the city’s leader to completely shut down the border with mainland China. The strikers hope that such a move would curb the threat of more infections.
The walkout, according to public hospital administrators, is putting the lives of newborns and cancer patients at risk, forcing them to turn to the private sector for staffing help.
At the same time, the healthcare union behind the walkout is demanding a meeting with Lam because she refuses to close the city’s borders. Union officials said they would ramp up their walkout efforts if she continued to refuse their border closure demand.
She further inflamed union officials and others when she asked government officials not to wear surgical masks over their mouths to protect them from contracting the virus except in the strictest of circumstances. Union leaders accused Lam of basing her decision on emotion rather than science, which, they said, could even provoke more panic.
That said, travel has at least been dramatically restricted into and out of the city. The SCMP said that the restriction came as the number of dead and infected in mainland China continued to rise, and most likely beyond what the government in Beijing is actually reporting.
What also seems clear is that new cases of coronavirus are ‘home grown’ within the boundaries of Hong Kong, according to the Center for Health Protection. Officials there told reporters during a press conference Tuesday that three newly diagnosed coronavirus patients had not traveled to China in the 14 days before they got sick. Their infections bring the number of afflicted in Hong Kong to 21, as of this writing.
Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, who heads up the center’s communicable disease office, told reporters during a press briefing that, so far, four confirmed cases of the virus showed “no obvious source of infection,” further warning of the possibility that even more outbreaks in the city were likely.
“It is highly probable the four were infected locally, so there could be invisible chains of infection happening within communities,” she said. “We are not ruling out a large spread [of the virus] in the future.”
‘Officially,’ as of this writing, 27,405 people had been infected in mainland China, with 562 deaths. There were 21 people in Hong Kong, with the one death — a 39-year-old male.
Throughout Asia, just 138 people have been infected and one person has died from the virus.
Dr. Chuang noted that three new cases just in Hong Kong in just a few days’ time meant that there is now a significant risk of it spreading around the city. Thus far, a 24-year-old male is the youngest victim in Hong Kong; the oldest is a 64-year-old woman.
Some healthcare workers have also been placed in quarantine after coming into contact with a coronavirus patient.